Tell me about the inspiration for Trejo’s Tacos.
My mom always had a dream of having a restaurant. Back in the 50s and 60s, in Latino families, it was kind of … the woman stayed at home and took care of the house and the man worked. So every time she would start talking about a restaurant my dad was like ‘Take care of la cocina!’ So when I did a movie called Bad Ass, I was with a producer named Ash and we realized we were both foodies. We both love food. We would both go different places and he always had good food on the set. So he said, ‘Danny, you love food, why don’t you open a restaurant?’ So just jokingly I said, Trejo’s Tacos!
So the joke was tacos, but was it really because tacos are your favorite food?
My favorite in the world. I love them. Tacos por vida! We tried to make them as healthy as we could. The thing is, in the film business especially, a lot of times after a film, eight or nine of you will go out to dinner. And inevitably, there will be somebody who’s gluten-free, somebody who’s vegan, somebody’s who ‘oh I can’t eat that.’ So we made it so that everyone can show up here and find something they can enjoy.
You didn’t grow up eating vegan though, right?
Oh, hell noooo! ‘Put more lard in it!’ was more how I grew up. Mas manteca!
So what did you think when you first had the tofu taco?
They gave me one, I ate it and I was like, ‘What is this? It’s delicious.’ And Chef Ramses said it’s tofu. And I said, ‘Well, don’t tell anybody I ate it!’ Chef Ramses is my guy. Everybody kind of brought in stuff but he’s the mastermind. He’s not a cook – he’s a chef. There’s a big difference.
So you didn’t lose any of your Machete masculinity by eating tofu tacos?
No, I think I gained some! All you guys that are machismo, come on down and have a tofu taco. It’s delicious. We also have pulled pork and the brisket is my absolute favorite in the world. The carne asada is unbelievable. It’s spicy with a little salsa verde, so it goes good with milk; cools off the tongue.
So is this the beginning of a Trejo food empire?
Yeah, yeah! I want to be a restaurateur. I want to be like Colonel Sanders except I’ll have a black goatee and tattoos. More like Colonel Sanchez!
You’ve been in show business for a long time and you just got into the restaurant business. Which one is tougher?
I love them both and it’s really hard to say tough because I love coming here. If you can find something you love and then you find out how to make a living out of it, that’s the dream. People ask me, ‘Hey, Danny are you going to retire?” I say from what? My last movie I played cowboys in [Adam Sandler’s western comedy] The Ridiculous 6. It’s a lot of fun. Next week I’m going to Bulgaria to work on a film where I’m playing a gangster. I’m playing a character called Goldberg for Death Race 4.
Did you ever see your life being what it is today?
I didn’t see my life out of prison for a long time. You know, once you turn your life over to God, then it’s like the impossible happens all the time. Every day. Every day I wake up it’s a miracle.
Obviously, being Latino, faith is a huge part of growing up and our culture. Was that true for you?
Yeah, absolutely. From the time I was like nine to the time I was probably 26 years old, I lost my faith. I lost it. When I started having to take responsibility for my own actions, I started realizing, wait a minute. I can do this. And people helped me along the way. Once people see that you’re sincere about what you want to do, they’re willing to help you.
You turned your life around – what advice do you have for others who might be struggling? How do you tap into that part of you that helps you transform your life?
Think about it this way: I would rather shoot for the moon and miss then aim for the gutter and make it. We’re taught to aim low; kids hear that they’re stupid, they’re dumb, they’re nobody. I remember I coached a little league baseball team and I’m watching these parents screaming at their kids. It’s like, let’s just play, let’s just have fun. I had to actually take a couple parents aside and tell them that we were there to have fun. I’ll never forget this one little Mexican girl – her whole family would show up for practice. I mean, we’d have forty people show up just to watch us practice. I saw her about ten years ago, and she’s all grown up and successful and that’s because she’s got that whole family behind her. That’s what it takes. It takes a family to raise a kid.
You’ve gotten to work with some of the biggest stars in the world. Has being in Hollywood changed you?
You know, I thank God that I started Hollywood late in life. Hollywood is geared to seduce you into thinking you’re really something. It is, it really is. So the whole world can think you’re a movie star, but you can’t think that about yourself. Besides, I got a daughter who keeps me straight. I did a movie one time with a couple of major stars, I forget who it was, but I remember I went over my mom’s and I was all excited telling her, ‘Mom, I did this and I did that!’ and she was like, ‘I know, mijo, that’s nice. But take out the trash.’
For more information, visit Trejo’s Tacos official website