At age 17, Letty Mckeen went from living in a tiny village in Honduras to working at a fine restaurant in Washington, D.C., under a Michelin Star chef specializing in tapas.
Almost 24 years ago, Mckeen moved to the Valley but left the food industry to raise a family. She started a cleaning business and returned to school, getting a special education degree from Arizona State University.
But three years ago, Mckeen return to the food industry, picking Queen Creek to start a food truck.
“I didn’t practice cooking too much when my kids were growing up,” said Mckeen, whose Tapas Al Gusto by Letty’s Cocina food truck can be found at 18920 E. San Tan Blvd. near Grapefruit Drive starting at 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and for lunch and dinner Saturdays.
“After my kids grew up, I decided it was time to fulfill my dream of cooking,” she explained. “That’s the gift God gave me. That’s why I decided to start a new chapter in my life and start doing something I really love. It’s how I started my new business.”
She has two children attending the University of Arizona and two at Arizona State University. Her son assists in running the food truck throughout the week.
Mckeen also caters events around the Valley.
“We do a lot of weddings,” she said. “We start with little tapas and end with the main course.
“When it came to the concept of my business, I wanted to put tapas on the menu,” she said. “I can cook any type of food. I can customize it to my clients’ experience. I like street cuisine, French and Spanish.”
She emphasizes her style of cuisine is not Mexican but Spanish, which is milder and not too spicy.
“This is a very fine cuisine,” Mckeen explained. “This is a Spanish fusion with a little Indian twist and a little French twist in different recipes.
‘I use quality, organic ingredients. I use olive oil, and a little coconut oil. I use fresh organic vegetables. I go to local farmers markets to get organic ingredients.”
While she regularly changes the menu, Mckeen always prepares seasonal specials.
“Everything I have on my menu is very popular,” she said. “I’m adding more stuff. People always go back to my original menu because they love it. But at the same time, earning the client’s trust is very important.”
“No matter what I put on my menu, people always want to try it. Now, my menu is growing big because everything sells. At the same time, I cook a small quantity every day because I want the food to be fresh.”
Eventually, Mckeen would like to open her own “beautiful restaurant” where customers can sit down and feel comfortable.
She’d also like to serve breakfast but with a different concept.
“I’d like to have different types of omelets around the world and different types of burritos with a twist,” she said.
“It’s one of my dreams. I want to
see Letty’s cuisine everywhere in the United States.”
For now, however, she is grateful for the many customers who have made her food truck a success.
“I’ve been blessed with my faithful clients. Believe it or not, I still have the same clients because they eat my food every day, when possible when I’m here,” she said.
“I’m very grateful for every person who comes in and eats my food because through them I can support my kids. Thank you for filling my dreams. It’s wonderful for me to cook for my community.”
She also credits her faith in God for her success.
“God is amazing,” Mckeen said. “He always has a plan for you. When I see my life, that’s why my heart is full of gratitude.”
Information: tapasalgusto.com, 480-323-6913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.