El Centro Dedham is a Mexican restaurant located in Dedham, Massachusetts. The restaurant first opened its doors in 2005 and has been serving delicious authentic Mexican cuisine to the local community ever since. With its festive decor, mariachi music, and friendly staff, El Centro brings a taste of Mexico to New England. But behind the scenes, many customers may wonder – who actually owns and operates this local favorite?
El Centro Dedham is owned by Joe Perez, a Massachusetts resident who was born in Mexico. Perez moved to the U.S. in the 1990s and worked in various restaurants before opening El Centro in 2005. The restaurant is privately owned by Perez and his family.
Joe Perez’s Background
Joe Perez was born in a small town outside Mexico City, Mexico in 1968. From a young age, Joe learned traditional Mexican cooking from his mother and grandmother. Their recipes and cooking techniques inspired Joe’s passion for Mexican cuisine.
In 1991, at the age of 23, Joe immigrated to the United States. He settled in Boston, MA and worked various jobs in restaurants to support himself – bussing tables, washing dishes, and prepping food. He learned a great deal about restaurant operations during this time.
After ten years of working his way up in other restaurants, Joe decided to take a risk and open his own establishment. He chose Dedham as the location due to the lack of quality Mexican restaurants in the area at the time. In 2005, Joe opened El Centro Dedham and hired his brother Miguel to help manage the new restaurant.
El Centro Dedham Opens
El Centro Dedham opened in a small storefront location on Bussey St in Dedham, MA in 2005. The 1,500 square foot space had previously housed a sandwich shop. Joe and his brother Miguel did extensive renovations to transform the space into a lively Mexican restaurant.
When El Centro first opened, customers were drawn in by the tantalizing smells of fresh Mexican dishes, the colorful decor, and lively mariachi music. The restaurant offered a variety of traditional Mexican appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks. Signature dishes like enchiladas, fajitas, and burritos quickly became customer favorites.
Within months, El Centro established itself as one of the top restaurants in Dedham. Customers raved about the authentic Mexican flavors and high quality ingredients. Joe’s dedication to making everything fresh in-house paid off.
Expansion Over the Years
As El Centro’s popularity grew over its first few years, Joe decided it was time to expand to meet demand. In 2009, a second El Centro location was opened in West Roxbury, MA – also owned and operated by Joe. This 3,000 square foot space was larger and allowed Joe to enhance the El Centro concept.
The West Roxbury location was a huge success. Its spacious indoor dining room and outdoor patio seating brought Joe’s vision to life. Large celebratory gatherings could now be easily accommodated.
In 2015, after 10 successful years in business, El Centro expanded again – this time back to Dedham. The original location was moved just down the street to a larger 4,000 square foot building. This new flagship Dedham location allowed El Centro to increase capacity and add event spaces. It also featured creative new decor touches paying homage to authentic Mexican culture.
Today, the two El Centro locations in Dedham and West Roxbury continue serving Joe’s delicious family recipes to happy customers. He remains hands-on at both restaurants, regularly greeting diners and checking on kitchen operations.
Behind the Scenes
While customers mainly interact with the servers and chefs at El Centro Dedham, owner Joe Perez works hard behind the scenes. He handles all the business operations, accounting, purchasing, and management for both locations.
Some of Joe’s key responsibilities include:
– Overseeing payroll, taxes, licensing, and other financial matters
– Managing vendor relationships and food/supply purchasing
– Performing managerial duties like recruiting, hiring, and training staff
– Ensuring high standards of quality control and customer service
– Approving new menu items and specials
– Monitoring costs, sales, and profits
– Planning and overseeing any maintenance, renovations, or equipment upgrades
– Marketing and advertising for both restaurants
Joe relies on several trusted managers and assistant managers to handle day-to-day staff and floor operations. But he remains actively involved and visits both locations daily when he’s not traveling. Even when traveling, Joe checks in frequently with his managers.
Culinary Training & Recipes
Joe Perez brings lifelong culinary experience to his role as owner of El Centro. His traditional Mexican cooking knowledge stems from family recipes and training under his mother and grandmother from a young age.
According to Joe, some of his favorite homemade Mexican dishes to prepare include:
– Tamales – Made from scratch using masa dough, filled with seasoned meats, cheeses, or vegetables, then steamed.
– Mole – A rich sauce containing over 20 ingredients including chiles, chocolate, spices, seeds, and nuts. It takes days to make the perfect mole.
– Salsa – Fresh tomato salsa, roasted pepper and tomato salsa, and other varieties featuring hand-chopped ingredients.
– Tortillas – Pressing and griddling fresh masa dough into thin tortillas.
– Refried beans – Cooked with lard and Mexican herbs/spices until creamy and spreadable.
– Churros – Fried dough pastry rolled in cinnamon sugar.
Joe has taught his cooks and chefs how to faithfully recreate his family’s traditional recipes. He insists on making salsas, sauces, tortillas, guacamole, and other “from-scratch” items in-house. This allows El Centro to deliver exceptionally fresh, authentic flavors. Any new menu items also require Joe’s personal approval after tasting.
While El Centro serves a wide variety of classic Mexican appetizers, entrees, and specials, they have become known for several signature dishes over the years:
– Enchiladas Suizas – Chicken enchiladas baked in a tangy green tomatillo sauce and drizzled with sour cream and queso fresco.
– Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – Jumbo shrimp sautéed in butter and garlic seasoning.
– Carnitas – Braised and shredded pork marinated in a guajillo chile sauce until tender.
– Pollo Asado – Marinated grilled chicken breast served with roasted peppers and onions.
– Burrito Grande – Large flour tortilla stuffed with your choice of meat, beans, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, and cheese.
– Mole Poblano – Rich mole sauce served over chicken or beef with sesame seeds and rice.
Joe Perez continues to oversee the preparation of these popular menu items himself, even 15+ years after opening El Centro. He’s proud to offer delicious authentic dishes reminiscent of his childhood in Mexico.
El Centro Dedham has garnered many awards and accolades over its 15+ years in business:
– Voted “Best Mexican Restaurant” by the Boston Globe
– Awarded 4 stars by the Phantom Gourmet food critics
– Winner of WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards 5 times
– Named a top Cinco de Mayo celebration spot by Boston Magazine
– Included in lists of the best margaritas and best guacamole in Massachusetts
– Featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri
These awards validate Joe Perez’s tireless efforts to share authentic Mexican cuisine and hospitality with Massachusetts diners. He happily accepts each award and proudly displays them at the entrance of each El Centro location.
From the beginning, Joe Perez has believed in giving back to the local community. He donates food or gift cards to dozens of local causes and organizations every month. Some of the many groups supported by Joe and El Centro Dedham include:
– Local firefighters, police, and first responders
– Veterans organizations and VA hospitals
– Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and community centers
– Relay for Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and other nonprofit fundraisers
– Animal shelters and pet adoption groups
– Local schools and parent-teacher groups
– Churches, temples, and other religious groups
Joe also provides food for town festivals, school/sports banquets, and nonprofit galas. Catering large events is a key part of the restaurant’s business. Giving back reflects the El Centro philosophy.
Response to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic presented huge challenges for restaurants like El Centro Dedham. As with all restaurants in Massachusetts, Joe Perez was forced to close his dining rooms in March 2020. But he quickly pivoted to offering pickup and delivery while maintaining staff safety and sanitation practices. Creativity and community support during this time helped El Centro survive.
Joe developed family meal packages so parents could order food for a family of 4-6 people. He partnered with local schools and parent groups to provide taco lunches for teachers to show appreciation. Joe also donated hundreds of meals to frontline healthcare workers to give back during the crisis.
When El Centro was permitted to reopen for outdoor dining in June 2020, Joe invested in tents, propane heaters, and other equipment to serve customers safely outside. For a few months in winter 2020, he even built insulated igloos in the parking lot!
Joe says the community’s support during COVID-19 kept his business alive. In turn, he strived to support community members however possible – from free kids meals for those in need to job opportunities for laid off workers. The pandemic reinforced El Centro’s community ties.
Continued Success Today
Under founder Joe Perez’s consistent leadership, El Centro Dedham remains a staple in the community today. The restaurant proudly celebrates Mexican culture through its festive ambiance, tradition-based cuisine, and Cinco de Mayo events. Joe has built a dedicated customer base that keeps coming back year after year.
Joe has expanded his business successfully while retaining full ownership and control. He has relied on help from family members like his brother Miguel, instilled his values in the staff, and inspired loyalty. Guided by Joe’s vision, El Centro looks forward to continuing to serve delicious, authentic Mexican dishes to the local community for many more years to come!
El Centro Dedham ultimately remains privately owned by Joe Perez, the same founder who opened the restaurant’s doors back in 2005. His lifelong culinary knowledge and passion for sharing authentic Mexican cuisine still drive the restaurant today. Joe oversees all business operations and remains hands-on at both El Centro locations in Dedham and West Roxbury. He runs a tight ship but also gives back generously to the community. After over 15 years, Joe’s delicious family recipes and welcoming hospitality keep customers coming back for more. Thanks to his continued ownership and presence, El Centro Dedham retains its magical, festive atmosphere and connection to genuine Mexican cooking traditions.