Cocinas y Calaveras co-owner, Jesse Gomez, has quite literally grown up in the restaurant business. His experience began in the restaurant opened by his grandparents, Gustavo and Irene Montes in 1964—El Arco Iris in Highland Park. Jesse later spent several years managing and operating some of LA's well-known restaurants for Hillstone Restaurant Group and Innovative Dining Group.
In 2006, Gomez redesigned and reintroduced El Arco Iris, fusing and updating dining area with the signature classic dishes passed down for generations. The restaurant became a neighborhood staple and destination for home-style Mexican food. He, along with his mom, Angie Montes, made the difficult decision to sell the restaurant earlier this year. They closed its doors on April 24, 2017 and are so grateful for their many longtime, loyal patrons. (read more on KCET)
In 2009, Gomez introduced Yxta Cocina Mexicana, in the emerging Industrial District of Downtown Los Angeles and quickly earned acclaim for its inventive menu, artisan cocktails, design and impressive art collection. “The food at Yxta is contemplative, with each dish turned out with an eye toward presentation.” Los Angeles Times (April 28, 2011)
The Mercado brand, which Gomez co-created with long-time friend and revered chef, Jose Acevedo, was introduced in 2012 with its first location in the heart of Downtown Santa Monica, and was chosen as one of LA Magazine's Top 10 Best New Restaurants. Mercado has since introduced two more outposts in Los Angeles and Hollywood.
Gomez and Executive Chef/Partner Jose Acevedo reimagined classic mariscos with the creation of Maradentro in 2015 in Studio City. The seafood-inspired restaurant expanded to the west side in March 2016, with a second location in Brentwood.
In August 2017, the Studio City location was re-introduced as a new concept to fit the neighborhood. LA-based designer and architect Ana Henton transformed the previous bright seascape design into the swanky Lucha Libre-inspired, Mercado Taquería. The contemporary and more casual bar serves tacos and tablitas, and has become a popular happy hour and hangout spot.
The east side welcomed the fourth Mercado location on Lake Avenue in Pasadena in March 2018. Expansion continues on the west side with the fifth Mercado opening soon in Manhattan Beach which will bring the total number of Cocinas y Calaveras restaurants to eight.
Gomez is a 1998 graduate of Princeton University, where he majored in Psychology. In his off-time, he enjoys dining out and riding motorcycles. You can follow him on instagram @jesseangelgomez.
Cocinas y Calaveras co-owner and Executive Chef, Jose Acevedo, began his extensive career training in the kitchens of Wolfgang Puck and the Hillstone Restaurant Group, before taking the helm at Irvine’s Taleo Grill in 2004. Hailing from Guanajuato, Mexico, Chef Jose’s early years were spent learning and perfecting the art of his native culture’s cuisine, which over the years, he has transformed into culinary creations that are as much artisan and contemporary as they are a classic homage to his roots.
In 2010, Chef Acevedo began working with longtime friend, Jesse Gomez, at Yxta Cocina Mexicana, where he oversaw the creation of signature dishes and specials that would become the inspiration for Mercado’s menu, a concept he and Gomez created together.
The OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano named Chef Acevedo’s signature dessert the “Best Flan in the Universe” in 2007, echoing the starry praise of Yelpers who have called his carnitas “the single best [they’ve tasted at a] commercial restaurant” and “as good as the best homemade [they’ve ever had].” Westways revered Chef Jose’s work, noting that “Taleo Grill might just be the best upscale Mexican restaurant in the region.”
In 2016, LA Weekly noted that Chef Acevedo is “changing Mexican Seafood” with the introduction of the group's third concept Maradentro.
With a culinary style that is grounded in the finest Mexican tradition, fused with current sensibility, Chef Acevedo’s signature creations apply uniquely flavorful techniques to create incredibly inventive dishes time and time again.
In his off-time, he enjoys dining out and spending time with his beautiful children. You can follow him on instagram @chefelmexicano.