“We know we can’t beat Grandma’s tamales, but for us, it’s very much about community.”
– Jaime Soltero Jr.
Jaime Soltero Jr. grew up working in his parents’ Mexican restaurant, but it wasn’t until he traveled to Mexico as an adult that he realized how drastically the cuisine had shifted from its authentic roots. As a first-generation Mexican American in the Pacific Northwest, Soltero and his family had limited access to the ingredients used by his ancestors. But he returned to Portland with a mission: “I really wanted to try to educate the Northwest on what true Mexican food is.”
So, in 2008, Soltero founded Mayahuel Catering and worked directly with Abel Hernandez, a chef from Veracruz, Mexico. Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of food and nutrition, he explains, aptly represented their intent. They began catering out of his family’s restaurant and quickly became one of the most sought-after Mexican catering companies. When his clients couldn’t remember “Mayahuel,” they began calling Soltero “Tamale Boy” instead—and the name stuck.
“The tamale is one of the items that’s most ancient in our culture,” says Soltero. “It was something you could pack in your bag and go for days.” To honor the ancient meal and his newly adopted nickname, Mayahuel was rebranded and Tamale Boy launched in 2011 as a food truck.
They specialized in corn husk- and banana leaf-wrapped tamales and, yet again, proved extremely successful. Three years later, they opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Northeast Portland. Today, Tamale Boy operates in three locations, including one at the Portland International Airport. They’ve grown from three employees to over 30. And even as Tamale Boy’s reach continues to expand, building meaningful relationships remain integral to their mission. “We know we can’t beat grandma’s tamales,” says Soltero. “But for us, it’s very much about community and putting our best foot out the door.”
JAIME@TAMALEBOY.COM | (503) 206-802 | 1764 NE DEKUM ST. PORTLAND 97201