Jose Luis Barajas (Pepe) developed a passion for cooking at a very young age. His “taqueria”
roots and strong work ethic go back to his time in Mexico as a kid helping his grandfather Guadalupe’s
“puesto de tacos” (taco stand), where he opened Mexican soda bottles for customers. Many members of his
mother’s family had “puestos” in Mexico and eventually established taquerias in Chicago in
the early 1970s.
At the age of 7, Pepe and his mother Martha left Mexico to follow their family to Chicago in hopes
of a better life. Pepe’s mother worked as a waitress at her brother Camerino’s taqueria Los
Comales in Little Village while Pepe went to school and learned English. At age 12, he started
working at his family’s restaurant washing dishes. His aunt, “Mama Jose” was a big
influence on his life. With tough love, Mama Jose
taught Pepe the value of hard work and dedication. Before long, Pepe learned many
aspects of the taqueria business. He also noticed the struggles of his mother as a single parent and decided to drop out of high school to help with the household finances, eventually approaching his mother about opening a restaurant of their own. When he was 15, Pepe and
his mother Martha opened their own taqueria, Los Comales #8. Pepe eventually went back to
school to complete his GED while working at the restaurant.
Pepe continued to be driven and dreamed of one day owning his own restaurant. After many
attempts searching for a spot, a great opportunity emerged when a corner location on
Chicago’s South Side became available. After an extensive remodeling of the building,
Pepe opened el Solazo restaurant in September 2007. Having his own restaurant gave him the ability to further explore his cooking talent and continue learning and improving his
cooking abilities. Every day he strives to be his best and always looks for ways to be better.
Although Pepe does not have any formal culinary training, he has a passion and love for
cooking and 20 years of experience in the restaurant business. Pepe’s new venture will be to open a restaurant in the West Loop. He plans to offer authentic Mexican food
with fresh and quality ingredients in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere.