Orvid and Maria Fernana Cutler opened their Venezuelan restaurant six months ago in downtown Mesa, but the Gilbert couple have been rolling with their dishes for a lot longer than that.
The Cutlers, who run Que Chevere (cay shev-ray), have been operating a food truck for four years after they chucked their previous jobs for the restaurant business, something they’d never been involved in before.
Orvid previously worked in mortgage banking and Maria at a web hosting company.
Maria moved to the U.S. in 2003 from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and years later met Orvid, whose family moved to Arizona from Idaho when he was 9.
Once Maria shared her Venezuelan cuisine with him, Orvid said he felt the need to share it with the public. After many years of talking about it, Que Chevere food truck was born.
Maria uses family recipes from her mom and grandmother.
“I kept cooking for him and he kept saying, ‘We’re going to do a restaurant’ and I was like, “No, it’s a lot of work. Let’s not do it,’” said Maria. “And then one day he said, ‘I’m going to get the food truck.’”
Orvid said it took six months to build the truck, explaining, “I believe in the food so much, I spent all of my savings on a food truck.”
“The food truck has a limited menu because there are things we can’t cook in the food truck that we can do at the restaurant,” he explained. “That was one of the main reasons we opened the restaurant - so we could expand the menu.”
Since opening the restaurant, the food truck is not out as much.
The couple used to take it out up to five times a week but now only do that once a week.
What makes Venezuelan food unique?
“One of the things is called arepas,” replied Maria. “It’s made out of corn dough. We cook it on a flat top on both sides and once it’s cooked, we cut it in half and then stuff it with shredded beef or chicken.
“Our empanadas are different because they’re not pastry-based. They’re corn-based. Those are deep-fried but arepas are not.”
The restaurant also serves patacon, two smashed fried plantains.
“It’s almost like the top and bottom of bread and then you fill it,” explained Orvid. “It’s like a sandwich. We put shredded beef, shredded chicken, cheese and different Venezuelan sauces inside.”
Cachapas are corn pancakes with a soft white Venezuelan cheese inside, topped with shredded white cheese with an option to add protein.
Orvid said Venezuelan food is not spicy. “It’s vegetables. It’s the contrast of sweet and salty. We’ll throw a sweet plantain in with a salty cheese. The contrast is phenomenal.”
Maria does most of the cooking but Orvid assists.
“It’s amazing food,” said Orvid. “There’s nothing like it. You can’t compare it to any other cuisine. It’s nothing like Mexican food. My mom is Mexican and made fresh tortillas every day.
“Everything we put out is a 10. People ask, ‘What’s your favorite?’ I’m afraid to tell them my favorite because they’ll miss out on something else on the menu.”
Orvid admits it’s not always easy working together but, “We love it. We’ve always spent a lot of time together.”
The couple married 11 years ago and have three children.
Maria said running a restaurant has been a good experience. “We try to divide the work. We complement each other with our skill sets.”
The pandemic has impacted business.
“It has been down a little bit,” said Maria. “Thankfully, because of our food truck and our amazing followers we’ve been able to stay afloat,” adding that many customers come to the restaurant after visiting the food truck.
She said it also helps there’s not another Venezuelan restaurant in the area.
“I think a lot of the key to our success is that we’re both here,” Orvid explained. “People get to meet us. They like the feeling of meeting the owners and knowing who’s making their food and knowing that we care and there’s passion behind it.”
The couple try to make it out on the floor as much as possible to talk to customers.
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and has a bar.
And they appreciate the loyalty of their patrons.
“We’re only as good as they make us,” Orvid said. “We try our hardest with everything we do. Maria’s very passionate about everything she does. We try and give good service, good food. I’m appreciative of everyone.”
Information: quechevereaz.com, 142 W. Main St., Mesa; 480-474-4954.