Andres used to be a partier, a drinker. He didn’t want to settle down. Then he met Maria.
Where did you meet your wife?
She used to wash dishes with me when I was the cook in a Greek restaurant. The chef, he usually call her little, you know chiquito, chiquito, because she short. Then we all started calling her chiquito, making fun of the chef. We was very, very good friends, we always together. A lot of people thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend but we were only friends. We spent a lot of time together. We both like to talk, we don’t like very expensive things, simple things. Like our dates were in McDonalds, Burger King, this little store. Five dollars, you have fun you know? We went to the park and I told her, If one day you marry me, I will open a restaurant and I’m gonna name it Chiki’s.
I knew Maria was not going to marry me. I knew that because I wasn’t the right person for her. I didn’t have any intention to settle down. Me, if I don’t like it today here, I run away. I go to Pennsylvania, I go to Texas, I go anywhere. I’m more the free guy—I don’t like to stay in one place.
So she did marry me four years later. I go to Mexico to talk to her mom, can she give me her hand in marriage? She didn’t want to give it to me. So I come back to Chicago, and three months later I go back and see her again. So I ask my aunt for her car, I say, Hey, can you loan me your car, I’m gonna go see Maria. I go see her, and I say, you know what? Let’s go. She says, I’m leaving with you. I say, You cannot leave with me, I have to go back home and bring the car back. I have to bring my aunt her car. She did this at the end of the town, so we’re on the road to come here, so OK, we left. I called my aunt from the next town and said, I’m gonna leave the car here, you come back and pick it up.
That’s how I marry her, and 21 years later I open the restaurant and I named it Chiki’s, and she’s the owner. But it’s bad for her ‘cause she has to work a lot now. So it wasn’t really a good idea [laughs]. . . .
The pizza good here, you taste it? We make good food, they say. I make the business plan, and I have a lot of people to help me. I have a lot of chefs and a lot of cooks. Once I get them here I bring them right straight to the kitchen and say, Let’s come up with some recipes. I brought a lot of books. Books don’t work that much. I think books—I mean, they give you an idea, but you cannot follow a recipe exactly. I always change it. I make a minestrone with two different books, I combine it. I make my own minestrone, and that’s the way you learn how to cook. I’ve been around the business for about 30-some years, so I know a little bit about cooking.
I like what I’m doing. I love what I’m doing. I try to teach my son, I say, If you learn how to cook, you never go hungry. I believe you gonna be the most popular guy in the whole world, because people eat everywhere you go. If you know how to cook they gonna love you.