By Elizabeth Warburton-Smith & Gregory Smith
During difficult times, new businesses and opportunities can rise out of the ashes. This was definitely the case for us. Gregory Smith, my husband, has been the executive chef of the Marriott University Park Hotel for the last 21 years. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Marriott to completely shut down all of its food and beverage operations world-wide, so Greg has been furloughed until further notice. We came face to face with some scary realities but regrouped and figured out our options. We knew we needed to come up with something to keep us financially afloat until things balance out again, but no one is hiring chefs.
Our doctor happened to ask us if we had ever thought about opening up a food truck. Truth be told, we had considered it from time to time, but for the last 35 years, Greg has worked long hours. These days, we have some extra time on our hands. Knowing that I am the founder of the Rita Ranch Community Garden and have a passion for healthy, organic foods, Dr. Azam suggested we create a healthy burrito type wrap. We liked the idea immediately and started crafting recipes and exploring lots of healthy ingredient combinations to find the perfect pairings for a few different wrap options.
We also had to come up with a name. We wanted our food truck’s name to feel healthy, delicious, and local, while incorporating a description for our unique product. After some brainstorming with friends and family, we realized that our wraps didn’t fit into any neat category, so it was a tough challenge.
‘healthy’ can seem ‘not so delicious’ so this task was a real challenge. We eventually landed on RitaRito for our locally made wrap and RitaRitos for the business. Our motto is healthy wrapped in delicious!
Next we incorporated, applied for trademarks and our transaction business privilege license. We also reached out to all of our friends that work as chefs or restaurant owners to find a professional, permitted commissary we could work out of.
Next, we had to find a food truck to help us reach people. After being disappointed with the results of our search, we started looking for food trailers instead. We soon connected with one of the owners of Viva Coffee House, who happened to be trailing his Viva food trailer. I immediately asked him where he found it and lots of other questions about the trailer. After finding out what we were doing, he and his business partner offered to lend it to us until we find our own. We feel very fortunate to have teamed up with another local restaurant that is doing such great things for our community.
As the founder of the Rita Ranch Community Garden, my vision for the future is to help transform the way we eat food. We want food from an organic farm to our plate in as little time as possible. Food is the most nutritious when consumed within 10 minutes of harvesting, and we are very fortunate to have access to fresh, delicious organic produce. We will be incorporating local, organic veggies into our RitaRitos whenever possible. We will also revise our menu options to reflect seasonal changes so we can stay focused on local ingredients packed full of immune boosting nutrition.
Our small menu features local, desert foods. We have a great recipe for mesquite flour chocolate chip cookies that we are offering as well.
Our wraps are delicious, with crunchy veggies, grilled chicken, and super flavorful aiolis. Our current offerings include the Veggie-Rito, a vegetarian options that is paired with a fresh lemon and garlic aioli sauce, the Smokey BBQ Rito with grilled chicken and a tangy smooth smoky aioli, and our Salsa-Rito, with grilled chicken and a mild fresh salsa aioli.
We are open for business Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11-2 in front of the Rita Ranch Community Garden at 7471 South Houghton Road.
You can contact us via email at ChefRitaRitos@gmail.com, or at ChefRitaRitos on FaceBook or Instagram. If we don’t get back to you right away through social media, please be patient. We are still learning that part of the business!