Every meal Delia Tinoco prepares begins with a simple ingredient that can be found anywhere.
“The first ingredient in my food is love. When my sister cooks my recipes she calls and tells me it’s not working for her, I tell her ‘No, you need to put love in first,’” said Delia, owner of All-in-One: Delia’s Authentic Home Flavor.
And love is an easy ingredient to come by for Delia, since the business’s sole employees are her and her children. For the last two years, Delia and her three children have been serving authentic home recipes to Jordan and its surrounding communities, but the roots of Delia’s authentic home flavor go far deeper, and much farther south, than Jordan.
Delia was born in Mexico but grew up in Texas, giving her the perfect background to create Tex-Mex cuisine, which is typically characterized by shredded meats and cheese and a liberal use of spices, peppers and beans. In Texas, Delia put her cooking skills to use by starting a restaurant, which eventually expanded to three locations. This environment proved to be an incubator of good taste and respectful customer service for her three young children.
“I was raised running around in the restaurant with my brother and my sister, who was actually ringing up people at the register a lot of the time,” said Gabriel Lopez, Delia’s oldest son. “We were raised in that environment, so when divorce happened and all that was lost, we moved up to Minnesota and grew up here.”
The family moved to Willmar more than a decade ago before settling in Jordan for the past eight years. Delia’s sons Gabriel and Joe graduated from Jordan High School in 2016 and 2018, respectively. While attending JHS, Gabriel and Joe were introduced to business knowledge that would provide invaluable to getting their mother’s business off the ground.
“I thank God every day that I was able to be in a school district that cared for the education of their students,’ Gabriel said. “And Jordan has stepped up their game even more since I’ve been out of there. They’ve implemented a lot of classes I would’ve loved to take advantage of, but while I was there they did a great job and I saw it even more as my brother went through his high school career.”
His senior year, Joe participated in the pilot program for the school’s business, marketing and economics academy. The school academy system offers students the opportunity to take professional studies courses that combine cross-curricular and real-world learning, where students get to form relationships with local businesses and professionals.
During his time with the academy, Joe said the most valuable skills he learned were personal finance — which he said easily translates into business finance principles — and having face-to-face experiences with community members.
“BME offered us mentors and local businesses to work with,” Joe said. “I worked with Duane from Forged by Fago Garage. He really gave us a lot of inside details on how a business works and offered us a look at the bone structure of a business. BME made me feel more mature — I had a mentor I could go talk to and ask them questions.”
By the time Joe started participating in the academy, he and his family were considering starting a food service business. During his second semester, when the family became more serious about the business, Joe decided to merge his studies and home life when his teachers introduced a Shark Tank project, based on the popular ABC program where entrepreneurs pitch ideas to business moguls with hopes they’ll invest.
“In the back of my head we already had this All-in-One idea in progress and were thinking how we could develop it, so it was a no-brainer when I got to class,” Joe said. “We were already creating a business at home, I thought I might as well take time in class to create it more realistically. I used the time at school and the knowledge that Ali (Fenstermacher) and Craig (Albers) taught me to develop that into a business and how it could work economically and financially.”
Near the end of the school year, the academy students took the stage in the high school auditorium and pitched their business models to a panel of local business owners. At the end of the night, the panel chose All-In-One: Delia’s Authentic Home Flavor the winner.
With newly gained business knowledge from Joe and Gabriel, the family launched their business in 2016. The current business model relies on Gabriel to cover management, Joe finances, their sister Areli marketing and social media and Delia the food, while her husband Elber helps out with maintenance, transportation and general handiwork.
The business leases commercial kitchen space in Shakopee, since they couldn’t find a building with appropriate amenities in Jordan. They prepare the food in Shakopee and deliver anywhere within an hour of Jordan. That distance is dictated by how long they can keep the food fresh and hot, Gabriel said.
When they first decided to start the business, the family was very careful about how they branded their food.
“I try to say my recipes are not Mexican authentic,” Delia said. “I’m from Mexico, I know a lot of cooking from Mexico, but I was raised Texas too, so my food is more like authentic home flavor. That’s why I say that instead of authentic Mexican flavor.”
“When you call a restaurant authentic Mexican food you’re held to a certain standard,” Gabriel said. “My mother was raised in Texas and picked up a lot of that cooking style, so it’s unique in the sense that we’re able to mix both cultures together: the Americanized culture plus the Mexican and the Tex-Mex flavors and seasoning.”
The most common food the family provides is taco and burrito bars. The self-serving, buffet-style of their catering complements the open-minded, “all-in-one” mindset that guides their business.
“We want our business to be a place anyone could feel comfortable in,” Gabriel said. “The food is cooked with authentic Mexican home flavor, but the environment is an inclusive area where anybody can come to pick and choose what they like on their food and enjoy it. A lot of times you see the red, green and white at a Mexican restaurant with traditional Mexican confetti and decorations. We don’t have that. The reason we chose a globe to be part of our logo is because we want our restaurant to be a place that anybody can come and eat.”
“Flavor doesn’t have any borders,” Delia said.
The family decided to introduce its food to the Jordan community during Jordan’s Cinco de Mayo festival. Since then, they’ve served at the Scott County Fair, Heimatfest and Autumn Fare. They also cater graduations, baptisms, birthday parties and corporate events.
While the catering business has proven successful so far, the family is determined to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Jordan in the future. Gabriel said they’ve had opportunities to open a restaurant in other metro communities, but they’re holding out for the right space in Jordan.
“Our heart is set on opening a restaurant here in Jordan. That is our goal, that’s what we are striving to do constantly,” Gabriel said.
The primary hurdle is finding business space with a commercial kitchen, or a property owner willing to invest in adding a kitchen.
“What we need is a building owner to see our vision and align themselves with us and install a kitchen,” Gabriel said. “We have high aspirations and goals we want to get to. We see our logo and name as something that could potentially be franchiseable in the future, at least in south metro area. We have long-term goals, but we need to get through that first hurdle of opening a restaurant in town.”
Despite their tireless effort to expand the business and find a permanent home, the work is far from joyless. The family members find fulfillment in all different aspects of their work. Joe and Gabriel, for example, find gratification in their customer’s satisfaction.
“It’s one thing to sell technology, it’s one thing to sell jewelry or cars, but people eat three times a day, so it’s another thing to sell food,” Gabriel said. “Food brings joy to people — it’s something they look forward to.”
“When we serve a taco bowl to someone and they say it’s the best they’ve ever had, it touches you in the heart and it brings happiness to me,” Joe said.
It’s easy to see the many people who benefit from All-in-One being part of the Jordan community these last few years; the three Lopez siblings get to build a business together, Jordanites get to have diverse, flavorful food in their community, but perhaps no one benefits more than Delia, who gets to serve her authentic recipes — with her family — to a grateful community.
“It has been great working with my family,” she said. “This is the dream for me.”