The Recipe to Success
The Texas Story Project.
Leticia Sepulveda, a San Antonio icon, is co-owner of Don Pedro Mexican Restaurant. Now retired with her husband in Texas, her journey began in Mexico. It is in Monterrey, Mexico where she began to build her business background. Leticia’s business legacy continues to give back to the people through community initiatives.
"I chose the most beautiful lady in the world," says Ruben Sepulveda Sr.
Leticia was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. She attended the English Commercial institute to become a secretary. While growing up she learned how to cook Monterrey-style Mexican food from her mother, a cook extraordinaire.
"Cooking with my mom, she was a very good cook; she was an excellent cook. I learned from her and she taught me everything I know,” says Leticia about her mother.
I asked, “Did you and your mother have a favorite meal that you liked to prepare together?”
"Tamales," she laughed. “Also, over in Monterrey we cooked Cabrito and it’s delicious. All of the recipes in the restaurant are influenced by my mother. We have our specials every day and those are authentic Mexican food from my mother's recipes. All of the recipes for the desserts are mine."
Leticia married Ruben Sepulveda Sr. in 1960. He was also born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. Shortly after Leticia was married, the two newlyweds moved to Detroit, Michigan where her husband continued working in a steel factory. She had three children: Ruben Jr., Marco, and Oscar.
After their first son, Ruben Jr., was born in 1962 they decided to return to Monterrey to engage in the dairy farm business with more than 200 cattle to start with. For ten years, Leticia's family remained in the dairy farm business until tragedy struck her family's business when a disease that infected the cattle in early 1972. The disease wiped out the entire stock which led to the family losing everything. With only the clothing on their backs, the Sepulveda's moved in with Leticia's sister-in-law, which included her husband, Pedro, and her three children in a small three-bedroom house in San Antonio, Texas in hopes for a better life.
"They put in the hours. Even with having the three boys they still managed to make a great life for all of us," says Marco Sepulveda.
Leticia's sister-in-law and brother-in-law were the owners of a small Mexican food restaurant which they opened in 1968 and called it Don Pedro, named after the brother-in-law, Pedro. Leticia's husband immediately started working as a waiter at the restaurant and Leticia started as a cook in the kitchen. Leticia would work early in the morning so she would make it home in time to take care of the children when they got home from school. Ruben would serve the children dinner before Leticia would come home and then take the night shift at work. Within one year at Don Pedro's, Leticia became in charge of the restaurant cooking as head cook and Ruben was promoted to night shift manager. After a few years, the family was able to save enough money to purchase a house near the restaurant. As the children grew up they worked at the restaurant after school and on weekends as bussers and waitstaff.
In 1979, Leticia and Ruben were offered the opportunity to purchase Don Pedro's which they greatly accepted since they knew the restaurant had a lot of potential to grow. With an attention to detail and a belief in providing outstanding customer service, the Sepulvedas continued to build their restaurant and focus on providing a family-friendly environment. Wanting to expand the restaurant, Leticia and Ruben bought the properties around Don Pedro and used the space to add on to the building. The family initially started with eight employees to now about one hundred and fifty and expanded the building from a small eighty-seater to a three hundred-seater.
As Leticia’s business began to prosper, she did not forget about the community that contributed to her family's success. Leticia's community support of San Antonio involves raising money for scholarships, supporting local high school golf tournaments, and sponsoring scholarships at the stock show and rodeo. For instance, a scholarship program in 1996 that Leticia and her family are involved in has awarded more than forty scholarships to deserving south side high school athletes. In May of 2002, the Sepulveda family was awarded the Thomas Carvel Immigrant Entrepreneur Award recognizing the immigrant achievement of having a successful business in America.
Mrs. Sepulveda has since retired but remains a presence at Don Pedro's offering advice and suggestions. Mrs. Sepulveda's three sons, Ruben Jr., Marco, and Oscar, now operate the day-to-day business which serves 1,600 customers on average per day. Her advice to students is to never give up, get an education, and to work hard because you won’t get anywhere without hard work.
Nicole Erin Delgado Brown is a sophomore at St. Mary's University with a major in Biology. As a resident of San Antonio, Texas, it is her family's tradition to eat out at Don Pedro Mexican Restaurant.
Posted March 24, 2018