Christian Pineda

The award-winning taqueria cofounder left behind a career in architecture to pursue his passion.

My true passion is design. I think I first discovered it when I was a kid. I was born in San Diego, CA, and was raised in Tijuana, Mexico. I grew up in that business; my father was a builder and my mother was in real estate.

I practiced architecture in California for about seven years then I relocated to NY to build Los Tacos No. 1. All the top firms are in the city and I wanted to be part of that, until I discovered the harsh hours didn’t match the low wages. My business partner and I had been working excessive hours for weeks and we could barely afford to live. We knew that in order to succeed as architects we could not work for architects anymore.

It was a rude awakening arriving to NY and not finding a decent taco joint like we had at home. I like to say we bridged that gap when it came to a true, simple, affordable, and delicious taco.

Our families were shocked, however they knew it was for the best. Our friends were very supportive, but I don’t think they really thought we were going to pull it off.

Our biggest challenge was the first two weeks. We were all finished with the easy stuff, which was building the shop, decorating it, etc. Now we had to serve over five hundred people on a daily basis. That was when it hit us.

I initially wanted to become an architect so my buildings would impact human’s lives in a positive way. But as a restaurant owner, my food impacts hundreds of people on a daily basis.

You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t, then you won’t achieve anything in life. Then, whatever your passion is, it has to make you happy. I would not do anything different.