Kitchen classic: Hernandez remembers his roots
Too busy to make dinner every night? Don't want to give your kids fast food? If you live in the Keswick area, chef Juan Hernandez might have a solution for you. From a commercial kitchen tucked away behind his house on Union Mills Road, Hernandez runs a full scale catering operation called La Cucina Classica, offering fully prepared family-sized dinners that can be picked up on your drive home.
"We can do meals for 1, 2, or 3 people up to 1,500," says Hernandez, 52, who comes from some tough circumstances.
Raised in an El Salvadorian orphanage, he emigrated to the United States in 1978 after a relative offered him help finding a restaurant job in Washington, D.C. After working in various restaurants in the nation's capital, Hernandez became a chef for the late UVA multi-millionaire donor Carl Smith, a position that, he says, inspired some personal ambitions of his own.
"If I can break my back for a millionaire," Hernandez recalls thinking, "I can do it for myself."
He launched La Cucina Classica Catering in 1994, soon after he became an American citizen, and now does large events for organizations including PVCC and UVA, as well as weddings and other special events.
After he and his wife raised three daughters, all of whom have finished college and pursued graduate studies, he reflects on his own difficult childhood and the success he's found in a new country.
"If you have a good life, if you and your family are healthy," he asks, "what more do you need?"
Maybe a home-cooked dinner.Read more on: La Cucina Classica