One day back in 2001, while he was working in IT for San Marcos High School, Ruben Orozco agreed to help a co-worker’s friend set up her new computer. That’s when he met Elubia.
Struck by her beauty, he refused to charge her, and even returned the next day to help her out again. The second time she insisted on compensation.
“She said, ‘Well, since you’re not going to be charging me, I made food for you’, and that’s when she made the Guatemalan tamale,” said Mr. Orozco.
Now married with three children, the Orozcos launched Elubia’s Kitchen, a catering business that serves Latin American food that has been making a splash at Santa Barbara County’s festivals, in May. With pupusas, taquitos de papa, garnachas, and tostadas, Elbuia’s Kitchen is not only a delicious addition to any event, it’s a showcase for the skills Mrs. Orozco has gained from a lifetime of cooking.
Mrs. Orozco grew up in Guatemala, before coming to the U.S. in her teens with her mother 25 years ago. As a young girl, she learned to cook from the women in her neighborhood, many of whom would sell their homemade food at the local market and on the neighborhood street in the evenings. Little by little, Mrs. Orozco learned their secrets while she helped them dice veggies and knead dough.
“It was amazing because they gave something at the age of maybe 11 or 12 years old. I would never expect it to be a part of what I am doing now. Learning their food, how they make the food, their own ingredients, and now I am using those. It’s for me… this is unique, and it’s my culture,” said Mrs. Orozco.
A few years ago, Mrs. Orozco learned that she was allergic to wheat and gluten at one of the highest levels. Luckily, those allergies are easy to accommodate with Guatemalan food, and so Elubia’s Kitchen’s menu is completely gluten and wheat-free, something that families have greatly appreciated, Mrs. Orozco said.
The greatest compliments she gets are when Guatemalans in Santa Barbara say that her food reminds them of the fairs back home or their grandmother’s cooking, she said.
“She gets that a lot,” said Mr. Orozco.
Mr. Orozco works in IT for Cottage Hospital and Mrs. Orozco is a teacher for Cottage’s Orfalea Children Center and an after school teacher for Peabody Charter School. Over the years, Mrs. Orozco continued to cook for family and friends and brought her goodies to events to places like Peabody and Adelante Charter School. After a friend told the couple about the County’s permits for selling homemade foods, the Orozcos applied to officially launch Elubia’s Kitchen and began looking for Food Festivals to participate in.
With some help from the owner of Mayo’s Carniceria & Tacos, Elbuia’s Kitchen landed it’s first big festival; the 2019 Old Spanish Days Fiesta.
“I told my wife, ‘Well, now it’s going to be official. If we’re going to do a festival and it’s going to be one of the most popular ones, let’s do it’,” said Mr. Orozco.
Fiesta was a smashing success, and so Elubia’s Kitchen continued. With the help of their three kids, Mr. Orozco’s sister’s family and his mom, and even members of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara North, Elubia’s Kitchen has brought Mrs. Orozco’s amazing food to festivals and events all over the county.
But the Orozco’s wanted to do more than just serve food.
“I told my wife that after every food festival we should start giving to one or two organizations in the community since the community has helped us out so much. They provide a lot of great services for kids, for seniors with the CAC [Community Action Commision], so I told my wife, ‘Let’s pick something local’,” said Mr. Orozco.
Since opening Elubia’s Kitchen, the Orozco’s have raised money for seven local organizations, including Cottage Children’s Medical Center and Casa De La Raza. Recently, Elubia’s Kitchen was at the Goleta Lemon Festival, where they raised money for the Community Action Commission and the Boys and Girls Club of Goleta, where Mr. Orozco spent much of his childhood.
Mr. Orozco’s commitment to giving back to the community is exactly what the Boys and Girls Club wants to foster in their alums, said Michael Baker, CEO of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.
“What will happen is people will read this and say, ‘Ah! We should do something like that. We should be supportive’, and it just helps. There’s no question that this will generate more donations, whether it’s for us or any other non-profit organization,” said Mr. Baker.
As Elubia’s Kitchen grows, the Orozcos are on the lookout for a permanent location for a restaurant. Until then, they will continue doing festivals and events and contributing to local organizations.
“That’s something we want to keep doing, even hopefully in the future when we get a restaurant. Keep donating to the community. Do either weekly or monthly, different types of organizations, because I think this is great to give back. I mean, why not? There’s organizations that need help,” said Mr. Orozco.
The next opportunity for locals to get some Elubia’s Kitchen grub will be at the Adelante Charter School’s Dia De Los Muertos event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov 3 at Pershing Park. Stop by, and Mrs. Orozco will be there slinging pupusas and tamales for the community.
“We don’t have a lot that we provide them, but if we do this a little bit then people come and start enjoying and adding penny and penny and penny, we can make a difference,” said Mrs. Orozco.