Carla and Fernando Meneses believe it’s a pleasure to cook, a pleasure to serve, and a pleasure to eat. It’s what makes “Que Gusto” such a fitting name for the restaurant + catering business.
In 2012, the Meneses family moved from Ecuador to Tulsa. Carla, who has been cooking her whole life, decided she wanted to share her love for food + her country’s culture with her new town.
After a couple years waiting for an incubator kitchen to open in Tulsa, and a couple more years of testing recipes, finding vendors, and getting to know their new market, Que Gusto opened its doors in the summer of 2018.
Though the process has been long, Carla says they are now more than ready to share their culture + cuisine with all of Tulsa! Just one word of caution: come hungry!
Is Que Gusto strictly Ecuadorian cuisine?
“We say South American cuisine. We also have a lot of things that are popular and common in Venezuela and Colombia...but there is a lot of Ecuadorian dishes too.
When people see “Que Gusto” they think that it’s Mexican, but it’s not at all.
Mexican uses a lot of chiles and spicy food that we do not use, and South American foods do not use tortillas. That’s something that’s just a Central American habit. There’s a lot of things that we have in common, but the way that we see some of the food is different.
Mexico has empanadas, and we have empanadas but the empanadas from Venezuela, from Argentina, from Bolivia are all different kinds. You have baked, you have boiled, fried, from corn. So there’s a lot of mixes.”
Does the food you serve reflect your culture?
“Yes, completely. And I want to keep it that way.
There have been a couple people asking me for ranch or ketchup when they come in here to eat with their fries, they are yucca fries. But we serve it the same way that is the tradition in Ecuador. And that is our mission, to show our culture with our food.
Another thing, when we are in Ecuador everything is so fresh. We don’t use cans, everything comes directly from...well you take it from the tree basically.
So when we moved here that was one of my missions. We buy everything organic. There’s great produce around, our meats are grass fed, we use organic chicken, organic vegetables. We don’t use any cans, everything is from scratch. So it’s really real food.
And we care about the source of the food. If we use coffee, we find a fair trade and organic company. All the meats come from local farmers, so we know the farms and how they raise their animals.”
What is your favorite memory involving food?
“Oh my gosh, this is very hard. I think that all my best memories are around food. I come from a big family, so everything is around a table. I remember helping my grandma cook big lunches for the whole family, helping my mom. I need to give you one specific memory?
Well, I used to have a lot of trouble because I used to take all the plants from my grandma’s garden to cook food when I was little. I had a little tree house and I stole the food and took all the flowers and everything to make plates in my tree house.
Food, it’s family. It’s a connection when you sit down. I enjoy so much to have people at home. It’s a great moment when you are around the table with the ones you love.
For me, cooking is a way to show love. Maybe that is because that’s the way that I learned it from my mom. Every morning when I woke up, she had all the pancakes ready for us before school. When we came home for lunch, she had the table set. I have a lot of siblings so maybe she didn’t have time to hug you all the time or take you to the movies, but there was always love on the table because she was expecting us with a meal ready.”
Anything else you want people to know about Que Gusto?
“Well, we have the best empanadas! (she laughs) I’m just doing some marketing for my restaurant. But we really do have really good food. The empanadas is a recipe that we created, I wouldn’t say it’s Ecuadorian. We do have some that are Ecuadorian, but the main ones that we sell, we developed on our own. They’re great, they are delicious, and it’s something unique to the area.”
A trip to South America (at least for your taste buds) is as easy as choosing Que Gusto. Find out what other adventures await you in Tulsa with Towny, the free guide to exploring Tulsa, shopping local, and earning perks for doing so! Download Towny to your phone or check us out online.