From The Classroom To The Kitchen
By Brandon Bosworth
Cornelio Chaidez’s career path has proven to be a bit unusual. While he currently owns, operates and does much of the cooking at Don Goyo’s Mexican Food in Kaneohe, he didn’t initially start out in the hospitality industry. For over 10 years, Chaidez taught Spanish language and literature at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Then, looking for a change of scenery, he and his family moved to Hawaii in 2012. He looked for a teaching opportunity but had a difficult time finding a tenure track position locally, especially as a doctoral candidate.
“That is why I decided to venture into this line of work,” he explained, “and I am very proud of what we do and how we do it.” Chaidez doesn’t have any formal culinary training. Most of what he makes at Don Goyo’s he learned from his mother.
“Our goal is not to be known as a high-end restaurant,” he said. “We want to be known as the home cooking restaurant. It’s stereotypical to say it, but our goal would be for people to enjoy our food as though they were our guests at our home.”
When he first moved to Hawaii, Chaidez worked for a couple of years at a local Mexican restaurant. That experience gave him the idea to do something along the same lines. When Dean’s Drive In moved out of their first location, Don Goyo’s moved in.
“It was a small location, ideal for a starter,” he said. “We outgrew it fast and decided to look for something bigger with more parking and foot traffi c and that’s how we moved to our current location at Windward City Shopping Center.” A volcano is prominently featured on the Don Goyo’s logo — that Chaidez mentions is representative of the volcano Popocatepetl in Nauhatl — along with a church.
“In Spanish, the locals call the volcano ‘Don Goyo,’” he continued. “The church sits on top of the largest pyramid in the world in Cholula, in the Mexican state of Puebla. My father’s name was Gregorio and everyone called him Goyo, or Don Goyo. By choosing this name for the restaurant, I wanted to honor both my culture and my late father.”
The most popular dish at Don Goyo’s is a gigantic wet burrito called Super Burrito. “You have to be really hungry to be able to eat one,” Chaidez said. He added that the carnitas are also very popular, and described the dish as being similar to kalua pork, but with a Mexican twist.
For dessert, he said, “We make a flan (Mexican custard) that I guarantee is out of this world. It is made the way custard is supposed to be made: baked in the oven for an hour, and not mixed as Jell-O, as you will find it at most restaurants.” Don Goyo’s often caters small and midsize events. Some of those events have left powerful impressions on Chaidez.
“One couple who have been fervent followers of our carnitas, decided to order just carnitas for the wedding of one of their children,” he said. “It was a great honor to cook for over 200 people.”
In another instance, and one that hit close to home, Chaidez received a call from someone asking if he had room for a party of 15.
“When they arrived, I recognized a friend of the late Savas Mojarras, the owner of The Olive Tree in Kahala,” he said, adding Mojarras was also a Don Goyo’s regular. “I inquired about Savas, and his friend told me that they were coming from the cemetery from a celebration of life for Savas and they were there to continue celebrating him in his favorite restaurant. I was unaware of his passing, and I was very close to breaking down in front of all of his friends. I will always cherish that bittersweet experience.”
Chaidez currently employs a small staff of part-timers at Don Goyo’s, which he proclaimed to have the cozy mom-and-pop feel. When looking for new employees, he values a willingness to learn and commitment to the business. He added that he offers “the necessary training, but little is needed, since the work is very straightforward.” Looking ahead, Don Goyo’s is waiting to secure its liquor license, which is even more good news for job seekers as its services continue to expand.
“We expect that there will be more traffic when that happens,” Chaidez said. “Our plan is to continue to be a family restaurant. We want to be a restaurant that serves liquor, not a bar that serves food.”
Contact Patrick Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org if you desire to have your company featured in this section.
ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTOS
COMPANY: Don Goyo’s Mexican Food
LOCATION: 45-480 Kaneohe Bay Drive, Unit D03, Kaneohe
GENERAL MANAGER: Cornelio Chaidez
YEAR OPENED: 2015