Big Taco Mexican Restaurant in Alice wins award in national competition

Melissa Cantu Trevino
Alice Echo News Journal

Driving on Cecilia Street one wouldn't expect much from passing a small green and red restaurant. However, inside the Mexican restaurant is "great food," but also a successful restaurant manager and owner who many have come to know personally.

Jesus Ceja also known as "Don Chuy" is the owner and manager of Big Taco. Recently he was recognized for his business in the national magazine El Restaurante. The magazine featured the top managers of the year. 

Jesus "Don Chuy" Ceja wins award for manager of the year in a nation wide competition.

Don Chuy earned the third place award in the magazine and on Sunday, Dec. 6 he was recognized by The City of Alice.

When he first learned of the award he thought it was a scam. It wasn't until his daughter got on the phone and verified that he had won the award that he got excited, Don Chuy said.

"I'm very humbled and I thank everybody," Don Chuy said. "I've never expected such an award and I feel great. I didn't expect this especially coming out in a nationwide magazine and all over Facebook."

Don Chuy opened Big Taco in 2001 and has been the owner and manager for 19 years.

Alice councilmembers Sandra Bowen and Ron Burke present Big Taco restaurant owner Jesus "Don Chuy" Ceja with a certificate of recognition as a successful manager. Pictured are (LtoR) are Councilmembers Sandra Bowen, Ron Burke, Big Taco owner Jesus "Don Chuy" Ceja and Cejas's long time friend Ruben Cadena.

He started his business after he was "let go" from another area restaurant after asking for half a day off. After that incident he knew that a building down the road was for sale. He jumped at the opportunity and nearly two decades later he is still going strong.

"Everyone knew about my cooking and when me, my wife and my brother-in-law started the restaurant. The customers knew about my cooking from (the other restaurant) and followed me," Don Chuy said.

Don Chuy came to the United States from Mexico City 38 years ago. He learned how to cook from his mother who also showed him how to make his own spices. His love of cooking has shown throughout the years as he worked in different taquerias.

"Right now the oilfield business is slow, but I thank everyone who continues to come to my business," Don Chuy said. "We still have loyal customers...I love my work and have been working in the kitchen since I was 13 years old."

He starts cooking everyday at 2:30 a.m. to have menudo and barbacoa ready for his customers.

"Everything is served fresh daily," Don Chuy said. "When customers come in they get good food and a smile...I receive everyone who comes through the door...I thank everyone for not leaving me alone over the last few years. When they come to my little, old restaurant for my food I feel really special. (Customers) could go anywhere, but they come here instead."

He continues to serve people from all over the area and caters to his loyal customers with authentic Mexican cuisine as well as a cheerful greeting.

Today, Big Taco customers count on Don Chuy for authentic, satisfying Mexican cuisine and a cheerful greeting. He always makes the customers feel like a friend, making sure to give a wave or hello to everyone who walks in. Customers enjoy seeing his big, friendly smile. Don Chuy mantra is "customers should always get a happy greeting and a smile. In short, they should be treated as family."

While he appreciates the award and recognition he stays humble and takes pride in everything he does. In his 19 years at Big Taco, he has  never fired an employee and treats everyone with respect.

"I ask God to give everyone health and prosperity. I live for the business and the business lives because of the customers. They keep us going," Don Chuy said.