Earlier this fall, Bon Appétit magazine named Dallas the best food city in America. With new restaurants opening up on almost a weekly basis and several notable top chefs living in the metroplex, like Dean Fearing and John Tesar, this title comes as no surprise. However, some chefs in the area are finding success without a physical outpost. Instead, they are opting to make money simply by catering events and by hosting pop-ups.
Plano resident Zuriel Barradas-Picazo has been working in restaurants for 10 years. He was raised in Acapulco in Mexico and describes his Mexican upbringing as the biggest inspiration for his cooking style.
“I can honestly say that I’ve had an affinity for the kitchen ever since I was a little kid in Mexico,” he says. “All of the fruits, all the natural resources and all that good stuff really drew me into helping my grandma and just working in the kitchen.”
Barradas-Picazo recalls being surrounded with “beach vibes” during his youth and describes himself as having a “west coast mentality.” Much of his kitchen experience comes from working in Austin restaurants. Last year, he launched a brand called Kitchen Zus, which he uses to showcase his own work, as well as that of other culinary creatives.
“Kitchen Zus started more as an idea that I wanted to portray with my food,” Barradas-Picsazo says. “I wanted to have a sense of community where chefs, farmers, bartenders and cosmologists would all come together to make something great.”
Perhaps the most popular brand under the Kitchen Zus umbrella is Nomad Tacos. As its name suggests, Nomad Tacos doesn’t have an actual storefront. Rather, Barradas-Picazo and crew will set up shop wherever he pleases. He is known for having taco pop-ups in Plano, Midlothian and Denton, the latter of which, he describes as a “baby Austin.”
Oftentimes, he will announce taco pop-ups via his Instagram page, sometimes only hours before they take place. While Barradas-Picazo does have visions of running a restaurant of his own one day, he says the nomadic lifestyle works for him now.
“There are some struggles,” he says, “but the upside is that we can go anywhere. We don’t have to rely on specific catering trucks or specific supplies to be able to cater an event. We just roll up with the truck, pull the flattop out, pull the smoker out if need be; set up a big old table, we’ve got our tent and we’re good to go.”
As the Kitchen Zus brand continues to grow, Barradas-Picazo hopes to bring other creatives and vendors to the light.
“It’s my vision to expand into a food hall and to give all of these vendors an opportunity, and to give back to the community,” he says. “I want to get rid of the idea that being a cook isn’t a real job or that bartending won’t make you any money. Some of us are more fulfilled than a lot of people that have nine-to-five jobs and living in skyscrapers.”
Get a taste of Barradas-Picazo’s famous Nomad Tacos at the Plano Art Fair this Sunday, December 1 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Celebration Event Center and Ballroom.