Chef Johnny Hernandez - Mi Vida
My passion for food began when I was five years old at my father's restaurant in a San Antonio Westside neighborhood. Some of my earliest memories include the aroma of freshly made tortillas from the next-door molino, meals of savory barbacoa and handmade tamales. My father's firm hand and conviction of self-improvement through education encouraged me to leave home after high school to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York and become a chef. Early on, my career took me to some of the most exclusive resorts in the country including the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara, California.
But it was my yearning for home, the love of my culture, and my entrepreneurial spirit that led me back to San Antonio. In 1994, I opened True Flavors Catering and quickly built a solid reputation. Since its inception, True Flavors has notably grown and earned national recognition for catering excellence. The most profound influence on my culinary style has been my extensive travels throughout Mexico. This time spent exploring the cultural nuances of each region's art, agricultural, and street foods has shaped my vision to create authentic and accessible interior Mexican cuisine for American diners. My mission is to celebrate and preserve traditional Mexican food, ingredients and techniques. This mission serves as the guiding principle for creating unique dining experiences that reflect the rich and diverse flavors and culture of Mexico.
La Gloria is that vision realized. The menu reflects the culinary treasures I discovered in the pueblitos, mountains and coastal villages of Mexico — from the aromatic carnitas of Michoacán and the succulent tortas ahogadas of Guadalajara, to the complex and refined tequilas born from Jalisco’s blue agave fields.
Mexico's colorful fruit stalls were my inspiration for The Frutería. This unique eatery offers fresh fruit cups, licuados (smoothies), tortas and tostadas during the day and by night, the space transforms into a contemporary Botanero offering botana-style Mexican tapas and fruit-infused specialty tequilas and cocktails.
In 2016, I had the opportunity to bring the cuisine of Mexico and San Antonio to an international audience. MEXIco launched with two United Kingdom locations and features real, honest, home-cooked style food inspired by authentic Mexican recipes handed down through generations. Dishes represent the diverse flavors and styles of the vibrant regions of Mexico with some exciting new dishes and a San Antonio twist thrown in for good measure.
Growing up in San Antonio, I was also influenced by the Texas Hill Country. I've had the opportunity to showcase Tejano cooking at Tejas Steakhouse & Saloon, located in the scenic Texas Hill Country on the grounds of the Tejas Rodeo. The steakhouse honors the diversity of Texas cuisine by combining steakhouse classics with the flavors of interior Mexican. The menu features select Texas whiskey and bourbons.
Finally, I am very excited to introduce two new restaurant ventures to San Antonio's emergent Southtown. Burgerteca reimagines the classic American hamburger and our signature burgers are inspired by the cooking traditions and regional flavors of Mexico. An extensive list of rum cocktails and local craft beers will be featured, as well as an onsite ice cream shop serving house made nieves (ice cream), paletas (popsicles), and raspas (shaved ice). Villa Rica celebrates the fresh seafood and flavors of coastal Mexico. The menu includes ceviches, a raw bar, and an eclectic variety of seafood tacos that will be the hallmark of this new seafood concept. The drink menu will feature unique twists on classic cocktails with fresh muddled fruits and a creative variety of mojitos, caipirinhas and pisco sours.
My hope is to share with our customers what I love most about Mexico: the vibrant culture, its hospitality and last, but certainly not least, its wonderful cuisine.
Hope you keep in touch and visit us at our restaurants.
Johnny P. Hernandez