No matter how early I get to Que Chevere, there always is a line of hungry pedestrians waiting outside for arepas. Often, it is the only food truck with a line of customers during the early stages of an event. No matter the weather; rain, intense Arizona desert heat, or the cold, Que Chevere has always been well worth the wait.
Que Chevere is a family owned and operated Venezuelan food truck. They opened in 2015 and have been serving the Valley since. Maria and Orvid are the married duo behind the food at Que Chevere. Maria immigrated from Barquisimeto, Venezuela in 2003, and Orvid is a second generation American. Maria originally came to the US to participate in a high school exchange program for a year. At the end of her exchange year, Maria decided to stay in the US as Venezuela’s situation deteriorated and the economy crashed. She then decided to stay for college on a student visa. It was during her time at Mesa Community college that she met her husband and now chef team-mate, Orvid.
Prior to starting Que Chevere, both Maria and Orvid worked desk jobs. MAria worked in graphic design, while Orvid dealt with mortgages at a bank. During their time together, Orvid fell in love with the savory latin food that Maria and her mother made. “By 2005 she started cooking for me, every year after that I’d tell her, ‘Start a restaurant’.... like for ten years”. Orvid said eventually he decided to drop everything and do just that- start a restaurant. Orvid had full faith in the potential of Maria’s family recipes, so much so, that he pulled out his 401k, quit his job at Chase and purchased a food truck to start selling her arepas.
In the beginning, Orvid and Maria were encouraged to sell something “familiar” to their audience along with their arepas. Many people recommended tacos or even changing the ingredients to a more Americanized style. Despite criticism, Maria and Orvid chose to stay true to their roots and create true Venezuelan food. Today, they continue to use the same family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Orvid expected Maria’s savory Venezuelan food to sell, but what neither of them were expecting, was the impact they’d have on Arizona’s Venezuelan community. Orvid found that no matter what event they participated in, nor what part of Arizona they went to, Que Chevere always attracted a group of Venezuelans. Due to Arizona’s lack of a cultural center for Venezuelans, Que Chevere has become a sort of traveling “Little Venezuela”. Truly becoming the heart of Arizona’s Venezuelan community.
Que Chevere offers a variety of arepas and other traditional Venezuelan food and drink. The arepa is a traditional bread made from corn flour, water and salt, then cooked ‘till the outside is crispy but still has a soft interior. It is often paired with fillings like perico; a tomato and egg mixture, beans and meat, and fresh cheese.
I first ordered the Arepa Reina. The traditional arepa is stuffed with a savory chicken spread and a large helping of mashed avocado. It is then served with a side of salty-sweet plantain chips. A humble, but delicious meal.
Next, I ordered the Arepa Pabellon. With this arepa, every bite is a symphony of flavors. The arepa is packed with black beans, queso, pulled beef and plantains. The beef in this arepa was soft and juicy, and oozed out each time I took a bite. The best part of this arepa is the way the savory flavor of the meat and beans hits you first, but as you bite there is this amazing sweet aftertaste from the plantains. Its is nothing short of heaven.
It is impossible for me to go to Que Chevere and not order their tequenos, which is just one of many secret menus options. Tequenos are best and most easily described as Latin America’s mozzarella stick, but so much better. With tequenos, queso de mano (a venezuelan fresh white cheese)is wrapped in dough and then fried to a golden crisp. They are crunchy on the outside and have a cheesy salty-sweet taste. Here it is paired with a specialty sauce, but Maria and Orvid’s tequenos are just as good on their own.
The last thing I ordered from Que Chevere was their homemade Chicha. Chicha is similar to the Mexican Horchata in that it is a spiced rice milk drink. Chicha, however, is much thicker and is heavy with a cinnamon flavor. The sweet rice milk is served chilled on ice and was the perfect way to end my meal from Que Chevere.
The Future for Que Chevere
What started off as nothing more that a man's love and belief in his wife’s cooking, has grown into a widely loved food hotspot here in Arizona. It is with great pleasure that I have been granted permission to reveal that Maria and Orvid have recently purchased a restaurant front in Downtown Mesa, and will be opening in early 2020. Their storefront will feature items previously only available on the secret menu such as Venezuelan hamburgers, empanadas, cachapas and pepitos. They will continue to operate the food truck ,but will now also serve out of their new brick and mortar restaurant, spreading their culture and cuisine to more people.
About the Author
Joslin Renee is a journalism student at her local community college. She has always had a love for other cultures and the people that come with it. Joslin aspires to become to become an investigative journalist and political activist in the future.