A bright interview with our friend Megan Sanchez, the Chef Owner of Güero in Portland, Oregon
Last summer we asked the team at Güero to help us build our inaugural menu for our Return to the Vines experience. We knew that their food would be a hit; the real delight of this partnership was getting to know their team and the care and commitment they put not only into their food, but into supporting their community as well. We’re proud to support this inspiring team, and look forward to our next delicious torta.
Learn more about this impressive restaurant below in an insightful and fun interview with Chef Owner Megan Sanchez, and don’t miss out supporting their incredible team through our Goods to Go Experience Kits and their Décimo Dias!
AV: Can you tell us your Cliff Notes style biography of Güero – its past, present, and future? MS: Güero started as an underground late-night taco delivery service in Burlington, Vermont. We were moonlighting as taqueros, but I was a full time cheesemaker then, and my partner was a full time student with several side hustles. It was a really busy and fun time. We could never have imagined we’d still be at 8 years later or the ways it would evolve so I know better than to try to predict what Güero might look like in the future. I’m guessing if we had a crystal ball we’d be surprised.
AV: Can you tell us your Cliff Notes style biography of Güero – its past, present, and future? MS: Décimo was born as a way to give structure to our giving practice and to gently invite our customers into it. If they choose, by planning to visit us on a Décimo Día guests can use their dining out dollars to help us build up the impact of our donations to Décimo partners. But the cool thing is that the fundraiser happens no matter what in an ongoing fashion, so with or without direct action, people are constantly contributing. It was my business partner Alec’s idea, inspired by my grandmother’s fervent tithing practice. Even in the poorest times of her life she gave away 10 percent and insisted it was the reason for all her blessings. So we think of it as a sort of non-denominational tithe, and we think my grandma was probably on to something! Décimo partners reflect the causes of critical importance to us as a team.
AV: How do you and your team define community? MS: Our team is our reason for being. To come to work and see each other – it’s the best part of the day. Of my life, really, speaking for myself. Providing for our many long-time teammates is the primary motivation to hopefully stay strong in this crazy business. Collaborating with our crew about how to serve and intentionally interact with the broader community that we’ve collectively built is the essence of the job aside from getting food out the window! Whenever we are making a decision we think about Felipe (our panadero since day one) – everything we do affects so many people with whom we are interconnected. It’s a lot of pressure and the grounding source. That’s how I often think of community. I hope that sounds as full of gratitude as I mean for it to!
An outward expression that culminates during our harvest. However, during the descending moon the sap stays closest to the roots, an inward expression that is seen as the leaves fall and vines come to rest. It is while nature sleeps and the descending moon that we make the decisions for the upcoming harvest and beyond. Paying attention to the lunar cycle helps us address this idea, working more harmoniously with nature.
AV: How have you supported and nourished your team and the operations during the pandemic? Biggest challenge? Biggest silver lining? MS: Facing the unknown together as a relatively large group of people with diverse sets of needs/concerns was the scariest and most challenging part. Not that it’s over by any means, but there’s been a sense of “emerging” – it’s been really painful in moments but getting to this point as a group, intact, makes us feel tighter, and maybe more capable than we knew. The break in our norms has caused a creative surge and we have lots of folks heading up new projects like La Vaca [new weekend coffee and pastry service], and more you’ll be seeing in 2021. Most everything we’re doing is for keeps. Aside from inviting people back into our dining room it doesn’t seem like there are old ways to go back to. So we’re putting energy into our new systems with the intention of them enduring, and passion into our projects in the way you do when you’ve been given the opportunity to recenter around who you really want to become. A lot of what’s coming is just… fun. So I guess we want to be is fun, haha. Everyone’s invited to the fun in 2021!
AV: What is the importance of brand to you? And is music an integral part? MS: People often mention the “vibe” at Güero. The word gets used a lot. I know there’s something good to it- we try to express something authentic to us as a group of people, but we are always changing so sometimes it’s hard to commit to a recognizable tone and aesthetic. The look, the sound, it’s all kind of scattered but I love it! The music is a combo of Alec’s musical passions and whatever the cooks yell up from the kitchen “PLAY THIS NEXT!!” during frantic rushes. Lots of reggaeton, banda, hip-hop, ranchera, and Gabriel Garzon-Montano.
AV: If you and Güero were a color, what would you be and why? MS: Green! Because of our love and use of plants.
AV: When you all aren’t at Güero, what are things you and team do during the winter? MS: A lot of cool people with awesome interests work at Güero. When we’re not at work folks are making art, playing music, BIRDING – yeah, we’ve got birders, writing, taking care of kids, surfing, reading about mezcal and amaro. Some of us occasionally watch reality tv. We’re all coping!
AV: Favorite snack for a winter day? MS: Frijoles negros con queso.
AV: Current piece of literature on your nightstand? MS: Re-reading James Baldwin, Midcentury Modern Landscape Architecture, books on mezcal and amaro, and Aminatou Sow’s newsletters!