tenaz toronto

Server laid off by fancy Italian restaurant in Toronto starts own Mexican delivery service

A server at a fancy Italian restaurant in Toronto had always dreamed of opening her own spot for Mexican food, but when she was let go from her job and unable to find other work her plans were accelerated.

Celia Nelson was happy as a server at high end Italian restaurant Moretti and had been saving up for a food truck with her husband before the pandemic hit and they were both laid off.

"I looked for cashier, manager, barista and nanny jobs. He and I applied to several positions every day. No doors opened for us. That is until in the boredom of lockdown my husband had the idea to start a delivery food service from home," Celia Nelson told blogTO.

"Customers would order over the phone and we would deliver right to their home. I fell in love with food when I was younger. My dad would teach me to make traditional Mexican dishes like mole, camarones a la diabla, pozole etc. passed on to him from my grandmother and to her from my great-grandfather."

That food delivery service is called Tenaz, and serves handcrafted artisan Mexican cuisine. Call or text 24 hours in advance to order tacos al pastor, quesabirria tacos, enchiladas and sopes.

"Living in Toronto I noticed that there was a dire need for authentic Mexican food executed well. I want to offer the flavors of my dad's kitchen growing up and the joy it brought me. My husband noticed how everyone was ordering take out and came up with the business model," says Nelson.

"We had acquired the business license a year before and since I have a background in food service and am a food handlers' certificate holder we jumped right into all the planning. We hadn't moved on the first plan which was the food truck because we were still saving money to buy it. The pandemic lockdown, however, decimated our savings and what was once a dream turned into 'this is your only chance at a livelihood.'"

Nelson's husband built the website as Nelson built relationships with local vendors, and compostable containers and paper bags were sourced. Tenaz launched to the public about two weeks ago.

"People have responded to it very well. They have loved our food and we have already seen repeat customers. I have been getting responses like 'this food is just like the one I've had in Mexico.' That's where we came up with our slogan. The taste of Tenaz affords the luxuriating flavors of a  Mexican vacation," says Nelson.

"Because we don't have a storefront, people 'passing by' can't just notice us, attracted by the glorious smell of our food from down the street and come try us out. So we are trying to establish a presence in our local Toronto community and we want to offer the comfort that joins family around the table and fosters unity and community."

All meals are around $20, and tacos can be purchased a la carte as well. Payment is by e-transfer, or you can pay cash at the door.

"This process ensures that I have all the resources required to fulfill all the orders the next day as I am a one person operation and I go buy all my fresh ingredients in person," says Nelson.

"Our dream is to have enough demand to open up a brick and mortar soon where I will be able to take orders and dish them up in the moment rather than ordering 24 hours prior to their receiving the food."

We in Toronto can only dream of the day Tenaz is a physical restaurant as well, seeing as we could always use another great Mexican spot in the city. The only way to see it become a reality is to support them now, so give this new taco maker a try.

Tenaz now operates out of a commercial kitchen at 390 Queen's Quay where you're encouraged to preorder for pickup and delivery.

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