When Roy Cabrera was a soccer-playing kid growing up in the Bay Area, he loved to watch his father, Carmelo, in the kitchen.
“He had a taqueria back in Guanajuato,” Cabrera, 28, said. “But here he became a gardener and landscaper. It was only on weekends that he could do what he loved, cooking for family, friends, at my soccer tournaments. He made everything from scratch. I saw the passion and joy behind what he did, and I wanted to make and sell his food. I knew I had to do it.”
While still in high school, Cabrera began catering weekend parties for friends.
“The whole thing just boomed,” he said. “I had no time for a social life. I was busy days ahead of an event buying supplies, fire-roasting chilies, marinating meat. But I was hooked. I loved people’s reactions to the food — the food of my father. I felt pride and happiness in what I created.”
One night, still in high school, Cabrera dreamed that he was working from his own taco truck.
“My dad thought I was crazy,” he said. “It was 2004, and food trucks weren’t that popular. But he said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ When I said yes, he lent me money to buy my first truck, a converted 1988 GMC stepvan. It was old and dinged up, but I loved it.”
With his brothers and sisters helping out, Cabrera named the truck El Roy’s y Familia, (El Roy and his family). He tried different routes in Marin County and the East Bay, but it wasn’t until he brought El Roy’s to Sonoma County that he found a home.
“I fell in love with this part of the world,” he said. “I loved the people, the community, the landscape. I knew this was my home and where I planned to raise my family.”
Today, Cabrera owns a mini taco truck empire consisting of three late-model trucks and a recently opened restaurant in Petaluma. Also named El Roy’s, it serves the same food as the taco trucks.
“It’s basically a taco truck inside brick and mortar,” he said. “It’s the kind of food you’d find in Mexico’s street stands — street food at its finest. And we’re not going to change. We’ll continue giving Sonoma County the best Mexican food around.”
9890 Bodega Hwy., Sebastopol, (707) 494-0960
Seed on the Go,
3200 Dutton Ave.,
Suite 212, Santa Rosa,
El Roy's Mexican Grill: 210 Edith St., Petaluma, (707) 774-3738
See all Best of Sonoma County winners at www.pressdemocrat.com/best.