At just 21, Ricky Ortiz is the sole proprietor and operator of his own award-winning food truck, Tacos Rick-O. The young chef, whose name literally means delicious and rich, is cranking out authentic Mexican food and cranking up the Charlotte food truck scene one taco at a time.
From his popular Tequila Shrimp and Carne Asada Street Tacos to delicious handmade gorditas and spicy nachos, Ortiz's Mexican roots can be tasted in everything he serves. Creative Loafing sat down with Ortiz over a couple tacos and cup of iced horchata to find out what it's like being one of the youngest food truck owners in the city.
Creative Loafing: You're only 21 and have firmly established yourself in the food truck scene here in Charlotte. How did this all come together for you?
Ricky Ortiz: Well, my family moved here from Durango, Mexico, when I was eight, and I started working in restaraunts at the age of 12. At that age I was just helping out, cleaning tables and things like that, and by the time I was 18, I'd done every job in the restaraunt from fry, to saute, to grill. At the same time I was saving all my money.
I fell in love with cooking and my mom realized that, so on my 18th birthday she surprised me with a completely blank and empty truck. It took me another two years to completely finish my truck and get it up to code, because I did all the work myself. From designing the interior to installing appliances, I did it all. Now, you can find me all over the city serving the food I love.
Did growing up in Mexico make a difference in how you prepare the food you serve at Tacos Rick-O?
My Mexican roots are a huge part of who I am and my cooking style. Growing up in Durango I was introduced to street food at an early age, because it's such a huge part of the culture there and so readily available.
From churros, to tacos, to street corn and soup, this is the food I grew up with, so it was natural when I started my business that I incorporated those flavors, and I guess that's helped me to stand out. Now, I've won food truck competitions, served the Carolina Panthers and residents all over the city. It feels great to be serving the food I love and to have others love it too.
Aside from the great food, another thing that stands out about your truck is your cool cartoon logo, which also incorporates your image. It's a pretty interesting conversation starter. Can you talk about how you came up with the idea?
Well, I guess because I'm still really young, most people don't expect me to actually own the truck, they think I just work there. Everyone is always asking me who Rick-O is, so the logo is a nice way of letting people know it's me. They're always surprised.
I'm just grateful and working hard to keep my business growing. I put in 90 to 100 hours on my truck every week so you will always see me on my truck, both literally and figuratively, whether I'm making tacos, taking orders for people, or you just spot the logo. Right now my biggest goals are building my clientele and brand recognition. I've gotten a great response so far, so my goal is to just keep working and improving and serving the city the food I love.
Love Rick-O back by visiting his website for more info: www.tacosrick-o.com