Currently celebrating its 26th year in Dallas/Fort Worth, Mi Cocina entered the Dallas Tex-Mex scene in 1991 built on the idea of celebrating families, both of our guests and of our team members. With a portrait of Mama, founder Mico Rodriguez’s grandmother, hung in each Mi Cocina restaurant even today, she is a reminder of the hospitality and familial spirit that established the Mi Cocina culture.
While our restaurants serve families each and every day inside their four walls, another family is built and supported by our brands, Mi Cocina and Taco Diner. Family members work together throughout the restaurants, at various locations and even at the M Crowd Restaurant Group Restaurant Support Center in Las Colinas.
One family’s journey began in 1995 – the Villanueva family – when Jose Luis began working for Mi Cocina, bussing tables at the Sundance Square location in Fort Worth while working two other jobs to support his new, growing family. Today, Jose Luis’ two brothers, nephew and daughter all work for Mi Cocina and Taco Diner. The story of their growth and personal development and love for people is truly an inspiring one.
Meet the Villanueva Family.
Francisco Villanueva – Ambassador of Hospitality at the M Crowd Restaurant Group Restaurant Support Center.
Francisco joined the company in 1999 as a cook. Six months later he became a server; a manager after six more months and has also served in a leadership role as an Area Director for all Taco Diner locations. “In my current role, I visit all the Mi Cocina and Taco Diner restaurants and provide ideas to elevate the service and recognize the team. This business is all about people and purpose. The philosophy of our company is clear – at the end of the day, we help people have better lives. I’m very thankful for this company. It has helped me support my family and be a role model. We touch a lot of people at all of our restaurants and provide meals and excellent service to thousands and thousands of guests in our extended familia each year. It makes me proud that we haven’t lost focus over the last 26 years and still put people first.”
Elia Villanueva – Server at Taco Diner in Sundance Square, Fort Worth and daughter of Jose Luis Villanueva.
Elia joined the company in 2014 as a summer job and has been serving guests in Sundance Square ever since. “Mi Cocina has always been a part of our family. I remember when I was a little girl, when Dad was the Restaurant Director at Mi Cocina in Sundance Square, he would take me to the restaurant to clean menus and help. There was a big panel with many light switches, controlling the lights throughout the entire restaurant. We would race to see who could turn on the lights the fastest. I wanted to work at Taco Diner because the atmosphere is more laid back. Eating at Taco Diner was almost like a treat when we were younger because we spent a lot of time at Mi Cocina.”
Victor Villanueva – Bartender at Mi Cocina in The Colony and son of Francisco Villanueva.
Victor joined the company in 2013. “I didn’t have an option, haha! My dad made me get a job after playing high school sports and told me that I need to fill my time. He said I needed to learn a good work ethic so I became a dishwasher… and it taught me a lot. Before, I was a spoiled kid and now I can spoil myself. I remember my first day of high school when we moved to Allen, I had someone recognize my last name and ask me if my dad was the manager at the Mi Cocina in Allen. Another time when I was with my dad when I was younger, he bought a lot of books to take to the team to help them learn. He’d teach English to the bussers so they could become servers. My dad has influenced a lot of people over the years and has given them the confidence to do more. It makes me feel very proud to be part of the Villanueva family and part of the Mi Cocina family, too.”
Chris Villanueva – Bartender at Mi Cocina in West Village, Dallas and brother of Jose Luis and Francisco Villanueva.
Chris joined Mi Cocina in 2005 and has worked at seven locations, helping with new restaurant openings and training. “I also didn’t have a choice,” pointing to Francisco. The family laughs. “I was living with Francisco at the time and I would visit Mi Cocina in Sundance Square. I really liked the vibe and noticed it was a great company to work for. I’ve been at Mi Cocina in West Village for the past seven years and I love making customers happy, bringing them back time and time again to the restaurant. Francisco chimes in, “he makes an impact on his guests. When I am visiting the restaurants, guests always ask me “How is your brother, Chris?”.” Chris tell us about a specialty margarita he makes for his regulars. “I make a cucumber jalapeño margarita with fresh jalapeños. It’s a great, spicy drink and I love hearing guests call for something I created.”
Jose Luis Villanueva, Area Director for Mi Cocina.
“My family’s involvement here at the company makes me feel great – that I changed our family’s lives in such a big way. Seeing all that we have each accomplished, believe me, is a great reward but I am also reminded that I was given many, many opportunities myself. I met the founder of Mi Cocina, Mico Rodriguez, in 1995 and became a busser at Mi Cocina in Sundance Square while working two other jobs. I was comfortable and making good money working those three jobs, but Mico later talked me into being a server and I really liked it. In 1996, he challenged me again, this time to be a Manager. In 2000, I was a Service Manager at our Highland Park Village location and Mico promoted me to be the Restaurant Director back where it all began at Mi Cocina in Sundance Square. In 2008, I got another phone call from Mico and he wanted me to help him as an Area Director. I was given an opportunity time and time again to stretch and grow as a person. Like Francisco was saying, we have the opportunity to touch and influence so many people and with that comes the responsibility to do it really well – to do it right.”