Baja Looking Back, Chapter 14 Conchita the Cook

Baja Bernie - 2-1-2007 at 04:32 PM

A bit early this week.

Conchita the Cook

When the Cantina opened for business in late 1963 it was called Rancho Benson’s and was only open Friday through Sunday afternoon. The only thing you could buy was booze and that was it!

In 1970 Jack Speer got an idea to expand the service and add a food menu. Early in 1971 he found a cook who was willing to work in La Salina. Remember it was in the middle of nowhere in those days. Conchita lived in Tijuana and refused to ride the bus. She didn’t know how to drive and she didn’t have a car anyway. So she had to be picked up every Friday morning and transported to La Salina.

She stayed in a small trailer out in front of the Cantina over the weekend and then had to be driven back home on Monday morning.

Conchita was a wonderful cook and a great addition to the Cantina. She made absolutely the best Chile Rellanos in the world. Everything she cooked was great but there was one BIG problem. She was what some called “a one pan cook.” That is she would only cook one meal at a time! A party of more than one person soon learned that the food would leave the kitchen one plate at a time. This process was slow, slow, slow and if you were hungry when you ordered you would be starving after watching everyone else in your party being served ONE PLATE AT A TIME!

If you complained Conchita would throw the pots and pans around the kitchen and start screaming at the top of her lungs. When she got into one of her moods the male waiters refused to enter the kitchen with an order. Hell, not even the manager would set foot into that kitchen until she settled down. Jack tried once and she beaned him with a coffee cup. This was somewhat entertaining but it slowed the process even more.

Jack bought her a full set of professional pots and pans and had a large commercial stove installed in the hope that she would use them and learn how to prepare several meals at a time. Conchita elevated her chin and absolutely refused to even consider their use.

No one was ever really sold on the fact that Jack really wanted to speed up the food service. If there were four people in a party it meant that you would all have at least two drinks before the forth person was served. Everyone learned to eat the food as it was served or the food would be stone cold before the last meal arrived. Proper manners went out the window when you were eating in the Cantina. Have you ever tried to eat Mexican food after the grease has congealed—Ugg!!

Jack finally solved this problem by hiring an assistant cook to help Conchita.

Why did the customers and management put up with this service? Simple! It was the only game in town. There was no Baja Mar Golf Course nor was there a trailer park. The only other place to eat was La Fonda’s and that was a long and dangerous drive after a few drinks.

Conchita knew her value; she got paid good money, was transported to and from Tijuana, AND was given a nice trailer to stay in while in La Salina. No one else wanted to work so far from civilization.

The food was great; you just had to know before hand when you were going to be hungry so you could order your food in advance.

Conchita really didn’t last very long. When the good cooks and waiters in Ensenada found out that the Cantina ‘always’ paid in U.S. dollars they were more than willing to drive the 40+ mile round trip to work here. Why? Easy! Every time the peso was devalued they in effect got a pay raise because their gringo dollars bought more and more pesos.

To this day the Cantina remains one of the only bars that continues to pay in U.S. currency. That’s why we get such great people to work here in La Salina.

DENNIS - 2-1-2007 at 05:55 PM

Thanks again, Bernie.
Never too early ...... Never too late.
Keep'em coming.


Baja Bernie - 2-6-2007 at 05:41 PM

Sorry you missed your fix.................Here it is.

FARASHA - 2-6-2007 at 11:58 PM

:biggrin:THANKS, for bringing it up for me Bernie - wasn't able to catch up on this one.
Great fun this Conchita -eh? HA - I can see this picture of her. CHIN up and throwing around in the kitchen with the pan etc....:lol:
And people waiting for food to arrive, one at a time.:biggrin:
SO - who was the real BOSS!!:biggrin: