When Carolina and Carlos Saenz moved from Hamilton to Paris in the summer of 2021, the two had already been dreaming of opening an authentic taco shop together for some time.
Carlos had been working in the food industry for almost 12 years prior, gaining experience working with a variety of cuisines along the way before taking the jump and making their own dream a reality with La Trenza Tacos.
At the end of January 2023, the two were getting ready to visit their mother in Mexico when Paris Wincey Mills Co. posted about an opening in its market hall and began calling for vendor applications.
The two had had their eye on the market hall for a while but there had previously been no spots available and when the opportunity arose, they took their chance.
“It was literally the day before we were leaving and we thought, ‘you know what, let’s send in a proposal and let’s see if we can talk about it – why not?’” Carolina said. “We did just that and it ended up working out, we really didn’t even have a lot of time to think about it, so we applied and here we are just a couple months later.”
The market offered the two siblings’ unique access to ingredients from local suppliers just feet away from their vendor spot. With meat from Link Street Sausage House across the way, veggies and herbs from Van Laeken Family Farm around the corner, cheese from The Udder Way Artisan Cheese beside them, as well as bringing in tortilla chips from Barrie’s Asparagus Farm, the two prioritize supporting local.
“We are using the best quality ingredients and getting them as local and as fresh as possible,” said Carolina. “It’s not only amazing that you can support locally made tacos, but it’s also very convenient for us. We can walk a few steps here or there, we don’t even have a freezer because we really don’t need to freeze anything. The only thing we bring in is our corn tortillas and we get them from La Tortilleria in Toronto, and they really are as fresh as they come because if we wouldn’t eat it, we wouldn’t feed it to anyone.”
Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, the two grew up with their mother Maria making fresh flavourful dishes every day and were inspired by the love those recipes came with.
“In our childhood, our mom was always cooking from scratch,” she said. “Even though she always worked, she always made homemade meals and we grew up having a homemade lunch and dinner every time.”
When it comes to the menu, Carlos and Carolina are using recipes that remind them of home.
With four main tacos, customers can choose from cochinita (marinated pork shoulder), or suadero (beef brisket), tinga (chicken), and a papa con chorizo (a vegan soy chorizo with potato). The siblings also make empanadas as a weekly feature and have a variety of traditional Mexican beverages like horchata, Jarritos and more.
“We are using all of our mom’s recipes from our childhood, so everything has a little story,” said Carolina. “I think that’s the part that makes it so special, people can taste that we are making everything from scratch and all of those long hours really become a labor of love.”
Even the name La Trenza Tacos works to communicate that act of love as La trenza means to braid.
“We are originally from Oaxaca and it is one of the states with the largest population of Indigenous people and those are our roots,” she said. “It is one of the economically poorest states in the country, but the richest culturally. So, we wanted to honor that part of our roots and also kind of make the connection that within many different cultures, braiding is a labour of love. It is something that in many cultures, your grandmother does for your, your mother does for you, or you do it for your daughter or son. Not just anybody can touch your hair because it’s your protection, your energy and your love, so we really are trying to bridge the gap between cultures and different people.”
Since opening on Thursday, March 30, 2023, the duo have gotten plenty of support from the community and they are happy they can provide a flair of authentic Mexican food to the people of Paris and surrounding areas.
“We’ve been very lucky to be able to meet a lot of local businesses and people in the community,” said Carolina. “Now that we opened La Trenza, we really did it with no expectations and the most beautiful thing has been the people coming and supporting us. We have had some people come in two or three nights in a row and then they tell their friends and their family, and I think that’s what makes us keep going because they like the food and that’s just such a good feeling.”