Friday Lunch with Paola Murillo at Chicha Restaurant

The Friday Lunch is a focus on the restaurant’s Lunch menu along with the Interview of a notable Business or Cultural leader who is joining me as my guest at restaurants in and around Vancouver. Each of the places I visit is unique for what is offered along with the type of service and selection of dishes.

For my next Friday Lunch in this series, I was joined by Latincouver Founder Paola Murillo over lunch at Chicha Restaurant in Mount Pleasant.

Paula Murillo

Paula Murillo

Paola grew up in Bogota, Colombia, she moved to the USA when she was 16 years old and lived in Kentucky for 10 years, studying business and marketing. She moved to France for 3 years and did her MBA in International Business. She then moved to Miami, back to Colombia, then to Montreal and eventually settling in Vancouver in 2005. In 2008 she founded Latincouver.

You can follow the Latincouver on twitter @latincouver

Have you always had an interest in excelling Latin American culture?

Yes, I love it. I knew I wanted to do something. I grew up in Colombia, created a food business when I was 9 years old selling sandwiches to my school mates until I was 16, at one point I was competing with the school cafeteria and the school wasn’t happy about it. Starting a business at a young age helped me learn about business. Once I had settled in Vancouver and learned about the communities here, I then created Latincouver in 2008.

What type of music did you listen to growing up?

50’s & 60’s music – my dad was addicted to music, he built a listening lounge just about my room and he listened to all types of music.

How did you end up founding the Latincouver?

I was working in HR in Vancouver, I saw people struggling to connect with the community and the city. I created this (Plaza Latina) to get people together to meet and connect, the name of the organization changed to Latincouver.

What challenges an organization such as yours today in Vancouver?

To create an identity that people don’t know what it is. I started working with the Columbia community here which numbers around 12,000 people. Now that we work with the Latin American community, as a whole we are 100,000 people, we have more impact at this size.

We need to speak with the voice of Latin America for each of the cultures/backgrounds within.

What do you look for when promoting the different cultures that make up Latin American countries in Vancouver?

To highlight what each culture does, for example Brazil is known for Soccer, Mexico for their food and Columbia for education.

As well 3 million Canadians travel to Latin America each year.

What lead you to founding the annual Carnaval del Sol festival?

To show the locals what Latin America us about. People feel so proud within each Latino community and their heritage and that we are proud living in Vancouver. Latin Americans are talented, this year we have over 375 artists which include 145 on the main stage.

You also founded Expo Plaza Latina, tell me about it

It is an organization to educate companies on doing business in Latin America.

What are your favourite foods?

  • Sushi
  • Peruvian food from Latin America

What are your favourite restaurants in Vancouver?

  • Saltenas
  • El Azteca
  • Chambar
  • Water Street Café
  • Salmon & Bannock
  • Momo Sushi
Guava Juice

Guava Juice

Pollo Sandwich

Pollo Sandwich

Tacu Tacu de Locra de Zapallo

Tacu Tacu de Locra de Zapallo

Chicken Skewers

Chicken Skewers

Pineapple Jalapeno Cheesecake

Pineapple Jalapeno Cheesecake

Paola and Richard both had a Guava Juice to begin. Paola had the Pollo Sandwich with aji amarillo marinated Rossdown Farm chicken breast, Two Rivers smoked bacon, tomato, avocado, salsa criolli on a ciabatta bun with salad; Richard had the Tacu Tacu de Locra de Zapallo with crispy lima bean and rice cakes, butternut squash stew, parmesan along with a side of chicken skewers. Paola and Richard shared the Pineapple Jalapeno Cheesecake for dessert.

What do you do in your off time?

  • Paint
  • Hiking
  • Roller blading

Who are your mentors?

  • My dad and my mom
  • Antonio Arreaga (Honorary Consulate of Costa Rica)

Tell me about the 2014 Carnvaval de Sol Festival, what are some of the highlights that we should know?

  • 375 artists
  • 4 blocks of Granville Street
  • Food from Spain and other Latin American countries focus and fusion
  • Cultural block (painting artists)
  • Viva Plaza on the lower level of Robson Square where the community can see demonstrations, learn salsa dancing and more.
  • July 5 there will be a Salsa party at night at Viva Plaza

What does Latincouver want to accomplish over the next few years?

  • Want to have a physical space for classes, art gallery and business
  • Support entrepeneurs
  • Educate locals

Style: A La Carte

Attire: Casual

Time: Friday 11:30am-3pm

Chicha Restaurant

136 East Broadway, Vancouver

For Reservations Call: 604-620-3963

Web:  http://www.chicharestaurant.com/

Twitter: @ChichaVancouver

Stay tuned to my next guest Interview along with the next Friday Lunch in and around Vancouver.

By: Richard Wolak