“We always knew that Manifesto it's a great point to come and sell - even before we entered Manifesto itself, but we didn't expect that it's gonna be so successful. But it all comes with the hard work of all of us.“
What made you personally decide to start your business in dining?
Esteban: I can say that it has all started with my passionate brother Sergio Amaya, who became a chef. And also with our very best friend & chef, who is like our brother - Miguel Basañez. When we were growing up, we had a family business, a cafetería selling snacks and drinks in Mexico City. So when I was studying, my part-time job was to make burgers and margaritas in our cafetería to earn some money. When we finished school, Sergio decided on his career as a chef and I wanted to study music and sound engineering, which I did in the US. My usual part-time job in the States was bartender.
Sergio quickly opened his own restaurant in Mexico City and he needed help, so I stepped in, not full-time, but as a special help, like managing people, sometimes working in the bar. Soon after, Sergio received an offer to come to Prague and help open a Mexican restaurant. So he joined that project as a chef and he offered me to come to Prague as well to be working as a bartender. At that time, I couldn't make a lot of money doing music, so I said okay let's give it a try and let's see how it goes. And actually it went pretty well.
"We always knew that Manifesto is a great point to come and sell - even before we entered Manifesto itself, but we didn't expect that it's gonna be so successful," reveals the owners of Alebrijes Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
Do you have an experience associated with your current restaurant Alebrijes that you will never forget?
The experience I will always remember was the opening of our first restaurant Alebrijes, because we invested everything we had. I remember the first ticket on the opening day. The order was nachos carne, guacamole and margarita. It was like a dream came true, also being so far away from Mexico, in a country with a completely different and new language for us, it felt so good. It was a big accomplishment. So we started and we made it. Since that day, the hard work started too, but also the best feeling ever.
It happens that sometimes there is a queue at your bistro at Manifesto, did you expect the guests of Manifesta to enjoy Mexican cuisine so much?
We are really lucky to be Mexicans and present our food to the world. We always say, you need to do it well to sell it well. It can't be good, it has to be perfect, with no compromising on quality! Even though we are a little bit crazy, because we love to buy the best meat, from beef to chicken, and we are definitely never compromising quality for money. We always knew that Manifesto is a great point to come and sell - even before we entered Manifesto itself, but we didn't expect that it's gonna be so successful. But it all comes with the hard work of all of us - me, Miguel and Sergio. There were lots of Mexican restaurants and businesses that weren't successful. Because we have enough experience and we know how to do things by ourselves, it's working. And that's why we are the best. It's all connected with training of the staff and also being there physically most of the time, taking care of it 24/7. When you do it well and have the right processes in place, you don't need to be there all the time if you have other activities, because you know it's gonna work.
"It has been 5 years since we have opened Alebrijes, and I will never forget the firts order. Nachos carne with guacamole. This is how it started..., " says Esteban, the co-owner. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
Is there anything you would advise new restaurateurs, before they start?
Number one, be true to yourself. Second, revisit your ideas. Also, check out your environment. And most importantly, work in your place - be there, in person.
There are a lot of rich people who open their restaurant and almost never go there, so it can mean that they probably hire the right people and they are lucky. Because normally the reality is pretty different.
Manifesto changes often and above all grows, bringing life to dead places and enriching the gastronomic and cultural life of all visitors. You recently opened another restaurant in Prague's Vršovice district. Are you planning to expand further and why?
This restaurant is not the only business we are having in our hands right now. We don't want to become a food chain. It depends a lot on the location. Now, talking of the future opening of Manifesto in Berlin, we would definitely like to be there. Of course it's not an easy decision to make. It means more teams, more right people around us. We are very careful with big decisions. But also hearing great opportunities.
You can compare: To do business with or without Manifesto? What do you see as the main difference?
Decisions that need to be made: I find this to be the biggest difference. With Manifesto, we have to follow certain rules and requirements of the place, but it's great for learning. Sometimes we don't immediately understand why, but retrospectively we say, oh well, that was clever. The learning process is amazing.
On the other hand, in our standalone place, we need to decide on the opening, pricing, menu and plans. Sometimes it's easier in a way, but what we are grateful for is that being a part of Manifesto equals to a large volume of footfall that Manifesto provides. It's extremely helpful for building a larger audience.
Summer must have drink - Mexican tasty frozen Margarita. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
You have been a part of all the Manifesto locations in Prague, which location was or is specific to you and why?
All of them have their own great vibes. For some reason, I've really loved Smíchov. It was the smallest one, but super cozy, with a great environment. Making friends was easier there. It was a great community.
Florenc was a magical party place. Because there were no neighbors, the opening hours were longer, parties could go on, it had a special and unique party vibe in combination with delicious gastronomy.
As for Manifesto Anděl, I see it as a beautiful and chic place, more modern, more sophisticated, which is great for sales.
What is most valuable to you about operating inside Manifesto?
Exposure to the outside world, which generates a great amount of sales. Also the fact that you can combine any dish you can think of with so many drinks - it's complete freedom of choice and you can easily mix your favorites. And it's fun for everybody.
What are the biggest daily and long-term challenges for you, in the dining business?
All the preparations need to be done day-by-day. So it means good stock.
And staff. Our manager on site needs to be friendly and open and we need to trust him.
"It's amazing to see queues in our place, so we are trying to be faster, that's why we have up to 7 people on each shift." adds Esteban. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
What has made you the most happy recently?
The sun, good weather and to see the place full. It's amazing to see queues in our place, so we are trying to be faster, that's why we have up to 7 people on each shift - our unit has a double size compared to the rest of restaurants and we can serve from 2 sides.
What do you think customers will expect in 5 years?
We have actually thought about it a little. The funniest thing is that Mexican food is evolving into fusions. It's very interesting. We are a traditional Mexican cuisine restaurant, that's for sure. We will definitely keep the typical Mexican food, trying to improve quality. We need to still be the best in Prague. At some point, there are two lines that we can follow - the traditional line, offering bestsellers like tacos al pastor, which have to be the same all the time and still the best. Thinking about fusion in a few years, let's say we need to continue the traditional way with great products and value but I think it's gonna be inevitable to add a modern Mexican cuisine and these fusions. We will need to modernize our menu a bit.
What are the 3 most important factors you look at when putting together a new menu?
We think of price range. Also of the portion size and amount of food that you can get for a certain price. The third very important factor is the presentation. The look of the meal on the plate.
For the lovers of Mexican cuisine - Alebrijes offers the most authentic Tacos al pastor in whole Prague. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
Now, if you didn't have Alebrijes, what would you be doing?
The gastronomy business has always been in the family. For us it's a passion. Imagine three of us totally into gastro. So if we wouldn't have Alebrijes we would definitely have another restaurant :-) So I'm still in gastro. But apart from that, maybe I could dedicate myself as a sound engineer.
What do you miss most from Mexico in the Czech Republic?
Warm weather all year and the warmth of Mexican people. Also a million typical Mexican dishes like barbacoa, birria, cochinita, different styles of tacos, tortillas, salsa, mole, soups, breakfast dishes, like huevos divorciados etc. Tequila and mezcal shots or cocktails as well.
If you had to recommend another restaurant from Manifesto that you enjoy the most, which one would it be?
Brasilians guys from Favela - they have a great meat, and also Taiko Ramen Bar.
"For us the gastronomy is pure passion," said Miguel, Esteban and Sergio. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
Interview conducted by Klara Olivova.