#32: Eddie Ledesma-Porter – Owner of May’s Eats
Edward Ledesma Porter Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson’s Farms podcast. We are so excited you’re here. We appreciate you joining us. And we look forward to sharing these conversations with thought leaders from our industry. They’re going to paint a picture from every perspective – consumer, customer, vendor, employee, and peer – that I think is going to be super valuable, and we’re really excited to share. So, thanks for tuning in. Remember don’t tune out, and grab life by the bacon.
All right, hey, everybody. Eddie is with us. Eddie Ledesma-Porter. Hey, did I say that name right?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah, it’s pretty darn close. It’s Ledesma-Porter, but it’s fine. You’re doing fine.
Neil Dudley: One long E too many. Well, anyways, Ledesma-Porter and he is the owner of a restaurant called May’s Eats. And here on the Pederson’s podcast, our job is to tell these stories. Our job is to give you, the listener, insight into these businesses, this industry, where your food comes from, and there’s no better way to do that than to just have these conversations. So, Eddie, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for giving us your time. It’s early morning, 9:00 AM on a Wednesday. You’ve got a restaurant to run. The doors open at 11. We’re going to squeeze this in before the crowd hits.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Deal. And it is an icy day at that.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. So maybe nobody will be running out on the roads, and everybody stay safe. So, first things first, tell us a little bit about where May’s Eats comes from. Everybody, you should go check their website out. It’s Mayseats.com, and you can read all about their story, meet Eddie. Now is James your brother or-?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: No, James is my partner, my husband.
Neil Dudley: Cool, good. Well, there we go. All right. So, you’ll get to meet James and Eddie and read a little bit about them. I loved how you described James as the Chief of Cheddar. What’s that all about?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah, so we wanted to have fun with some of the titles a little bit. So, I’m the CFOO, Chief Food and Operations Officer, and James is the Chief of Cheddar. So, he looks over all the bills, all the money, he’s the purse strings, and definitely gets the chance to tell me to stop buying things.
Neil Dudley: But isn’t that great? I mean, isn’t that so important in a business to have that yin and yang?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah, 110%. Couldn’t do it without James’ support. Couldn’t do what we’re doing without the help of my family and my sister. My sister plays a pretty integral role. Now we’re growing, we just celebrated one year anniversary. We had our ribbon cutting with the chamber yesterday actually because we couldn’t do it last year. So yeah, without the help of our team, our amazing team, and James and Edy are an integral part of it.
Neil Dudley: Well, sure. And I say like this, even vendors, like you need my help. Like you guys use some of our products and it’s our job to deliver on that experience, that quality every time because, like you said, it’s a big- it’s really a huge wagon wheel with spokes and every spoke needs to be in place doing its piece of the work to keep a business going. Now, you’ve done a thing that I think is impressive, and let’s explore it a little bit. You started a restaurant in 2020. I mean, tell me about that.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: So, James and I used to own a restaurant concept called Remington’s. Remington’s was a seafood restaurant that was on Belt Line Road in Addison, Texas, so north Dallas, and that business was in business for over 40 years. And James literally was everything from server all the way up to supervisor, manager, general manager, owner. And we owned it for three years and kind of really turned it around, getting all the gears going, and then bam, COVID. So went from the best porters, best everything in company history to nothing. And in 2019, we had already said like, hey, we’re getting the ball rolling with Remington’s, we’re pretty good, it’s kind of running itself already. We’re ready to kind of take this next foray into our next little hospitality company. Let’s start to build this. So, we were going to do concept two here in the Denton area, not far from our house. And we were like this will be perfect. We want to impact the community. We can do something a little bit better. There was a subway here prior, no shade to the subway, but we’re in an old subway space and just wanted to convert it, wanted to make sort of a better option for folks. And that slowly sort of morphed over the time of the pandemic when we were like we’ve got to figure out what we want to do. Do we want to stay in this? Do we want to continue to move forward? And the answer was yes, let’s keep going. And it’s been great. It’s morphed into a little gourmet to go shop. So, you can now have not only phenomenal soups, salads, sandwiches, paninis that all highlight a whole bunch of local delicious real food stuff, but you can also have- we have a deli case filled with all kinds of grab and go things, chicken salad with GAP step two, animal welfare certified chicken.
Neil Dudley: I love that you brought that up, like GAP, Global Animal Partnership. We talk about that on the podcast, but it’s so cool to know there are restauranteurs, there are business owners that put value in that humane treatment of the animals and moving up the chain in the levels. I mean, GAP, if you’re not familiar, to the listeners, if you’re not familiar with Global Animal Partnership, go look it up. Google Global Animal Partnership and get educated a little bit, understand what step two means when it comes to chicken and that we’re, as an industry, as a group of people who are following these standards, we’re trying to raise the bar and that’s what the steps are about.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yep, couldn’t agree more. But yeah, that’s essentially it. We knew we were going to have liquor. The best thing to come from 2020 is alcohol to go. So that has helped tremendously. So, we have a whole bunch of wines under 25 bucks and cocktails and other stuff.
Neil Dudley: You are a sommelier, too, right? Now, hold on, I’ve got to say time out because I just did a thing that I think is- well, I just have to stop doing it, but I can’t quit. I say you’re a sommelier, right? I mean, it’s like the worst way of- it’s kind of like saying, oh- so everybody that’s listening, I realize that’s kind of a faux pas and I’m trying to stop, but there’s my slap on the hand. I’ve admitted it in front of everybody.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: You are doing fine. So yes, I’m a sommelier or som for short. I fell in love with really figuring out that one plus one is five. So like you have really delicious food plus really delicious beverage is not two, it’s a mind explosion of how great it is. So yeah, I really just fell in love with food and wine and just pair it all the time.
Neil Dudley: Well, putting it that way really explains the goal. One plus one is five. That’s so true in for sure your experience with food, also, I think business and life. How can you put relationships? How can me and you be in a relationship that is not just one plus one, it’s one plus one equals four or five or maybe a hundred.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah. So, in my restaurant world tenure, I’m a Culinary Institute of America graduate, graduated in ’05, and I’m currently the vice president of the alumni board for CIA or vice chair for the alumni council. And I just fell in love with beverages there and just wanted to continue to grow, to grow with it. So, you’ve got to be a student of the business, got to keep learning all the time. And I absolutely love it, love to find great food and great wine to pair together.
Neil Dudley: So, May’s, if you go to their website, you’ll learn this, but I’ll just interject it here, is an homage to a couple of grandmothers. And I wonder if part of your, I guess, I want to say attitude or just how you live, which is always kind of saying I want to learn more, I want to be better, does that tie back to them too? Where does that attitude come from?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah, I think perseverance from my grandmother Mary, so that’s the M in May. She grew up poor and tried to always do better, always advance herself. And so put herself through school, through college, became a legal secretary for Bexar County down in San Antonio, and then became a court coordinator and had worked for the court system there for 30 years. So just a phenomenal woman to always have a big impact in my life. Always working, always persevering. And then my grandmother, Olga, but we always used to call her YaYa, YAYA. So my grandmother Olga, my grandma YaYa, she always showed a love, both of them showed love through cooking and love through wanting to show you that they appreciated you being there through food and also had a ton of respect and perseverance as well in her daily life, everything.
Neil Dudley: It’s just great how food plays that role of- in a lot of people’s reality, food is love. It is how you connect. It’s around that plate of food or during that meal, you’re slowed down enough to get to know each other a little better within the family, within friends, etc.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah. That’s what it’s all about. That’s our hashtag, that’s our motto. That’s our love through food on the back of our staff t-shirts. It’s, going back to Pederson’s, like okay, we just brought on this Ultimate BLT for the new menu that we just rolled out and we’ll keep it on for several menus. We’ve had so many compliments already saying that you better not take that off. So, but we have this Ultimate BLT and we make a lemon garlic aioli, and we use Duke’s mayonnaise for that. We use a light sourdough. We take [inaudible 11:01] lettuce romaine, put that on the salad, or pardon me, put that on the sandwich. And it’s about creating real food. And whenever you sit down with someone and you’re at a table and you can see each other smile, you can talk about how you can taste how delicious the food is, it’s like all the things kind of disappear. There’s a lot of crap going on out in the world right now, going on. And so, if you can just take a moment, hit the pause button, and be with family, friends, loved ones, whatever, gather around the table and enjoy some real food. We cook everything from scratch as much as we can here, if not, we want to highlight as much local as possible. So, we use a local Dallas bread bakery for our panini rolls.
Neil Dudley: Who are those guys? Let’s shout them out.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Empire Bakery in Dallas is super great. Yeah, so they’re delicious. We use their panini rolls here. We use King Arthur flour in all of our stuff. So, it is just sort of the best you can get. We get raw cane sugar, we have perfect purees. We make real lemonade, none of this high fructose corn syrup stuff that doesn’t exist in any of our beverages. We use Natalie’s Juices, Natalie’s is a fantastic company out of Florida. One ingredient juices, never from concentrate. So just excellent products that, again, convey the message that we’re trying to get you started out with good, and you can end up with great.
Neil Dudley: All right. So, all of that just makes me have to ask this question: How do you avoid having to charge a hundred dollars for a plate of food? I know that’s a problem you guys have to think about. So, what’s your perspective on it?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah, that’s an excellent question. So, here where we’re at, in Denton County, we wanted to be- we didn’t want fast food. We didn’t want franchise. We wanted real food. How do we do that and not charge a million dollars? Profit margins are smaller.
Neil Dudley: Well, and that is a piece of it I want the listeners to understand. You’re in a for-profit business. You don’t keep the doors open if you can’t make a little money for your time, for your effort, for all those people that work there, they’ve got families to support.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: And we’re a small team. We have maybe 12 workers with us and a lot of them are college and high school and part-time, and there’s very few of us that are really full-time, and we have to pay well to keep and attract the talent. And even still, we’re doing a lot more training, and so on and so forth. But to circle back to your question, to answer your question, just trying to make sure that we are basically operating at good margins, essentially. So, if we’re using premium lettuce greens, it always has to be fresh. It goes back to our ordering practices. So can we order, can we talk to our vendors, can we make sure that we’re getting more timely deliveries so we don’t have as much waste, how we sort of right size our menu is a huge thing. We’re trying to do as much menu crossover as possible with shared ingredients between things. And try to get as good of a margin as we can so we are not wasting a lot of things. We house make giardiniera for our Muffaletta sandwiches. So, cauliflower goes in that, cauliflower goes in our cauliflower cashew soup, which just happens to be vegan, cauliflower goes into our roasted cauliflower. So, we’ve got a lot of menu cross utilization, which is a huge piece too.
Neil Dudley: I just love that picture of, for people listening and anybody watching on YouTube, whatever medium somebody may be hearing this conversation over, this is so good I think for people to understand, if you go to May’s, there’s a man there that’s worried about these things. I mean, he’s not just thinking, oh boy, I’m fixing to retire, I need to make as much money as I can. You really want to have a business and you want to have a thriving community around that business. That is really an important thing I hope everybody hears.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Thank you so much. And I think that was a huge thing that James, myself, my family, we all talked about was just making sure, like we didn’t want a soulless restaurant essentially. We wanted a restaurant that we can plug into, get to know our customers’ names, plug into the community as far as little league down the road and soccer and let’s be a part of catering some high school-
Neil Dudley: It’s so American. It’s how America is what it is. Like you just said it, plugging into the little league, plugging in- Like people go eat at May’s. I mean, you should. It supports a group of people that care about the community. And I’m thinking also, like I need to come eat. Like in full transparency, these guys buy our product and I have not been to their restaurant. And that’s kind of a shame on me. I should be more- have a better relationship, more respectful of that truth. But sometimes I think it’s more important to just be honest then to say, oh yeah, hey, well, I haven’t been there, but I want to get there. I want you to go there. What about, I know you do some things outside of just the restaurant. So how does the catering business work? Because what if somebody just can’t get to May’s?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: Yeah, so we cater all over DFW, essentially. So, I always kind of joke and say we’ll do anything for a trip charge as long as we can make it work. We have a small little transit guy, transit van that we can come to someone, and do. We do all kinds of office catering and drop off. And we’re just trying to sort of reimagine that. We can definitely do box lunches. We’ve done box lunches before with cold sandwiches, but we want to make sure, kind of figure out what- and you mentioned it earlier when we were speaking, but in my brain, when I worked for Cameron Mitchell, he always said figure out what your guests want and deliver plus one. And so, I’m constantly trying to figure that out. So, if we’ve got Ford Dealership down the street and they want box lunch, how do we get a better one? So, we offer hot box lunches with all kinds of maybe roasted cauliflower rice on the bottom. We do Norwegian salmon on top with a lemon wedge and that salmon we put in a basil scallion brine, essentially sear it, it comes to you nice and hot. And so, your group of 10 to 20 people aren’t just going to get this sort of cold, regular box lunch, they can get something else. So, we’ve done everything from casual catering to weddings for 120 and [inaudible 17:50] and small weddings around the corner here in the [inaudible 17:54] cities areas for 30.
Neil Dudley: Just out of curiosity, what would be your perfect catering job? I’m just thinking like somebody might just think, wow, I’m interested in this. If you could pick one, is it a size, is it a thing, a dish? What would be the kind of the perfect catering opportunity to fit right into y’all’s wheelhouse?
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: I’d say I like the smaller things just because it can be a little more intimate. So, I’d say 50 to 75 is great or less. I like to show- I like braises. I love braises because I just love tender meat. I love when it’s just so fall off the bone or fork tender. One of my favorite things that we’ve been doing a lot lately because we’ve had just so many requests for it off our catering menus is a boneless short rib. And we actually use Rosewood Ranch’s Texas ragu boneless beef short rib, cut those up. They get a slow braise and tomato ragu, balsamic vinegar, a little basil Brea lotta on top with truffled potatoes underneath. It is pretty fantastic.
Neil Dudley: Man, you’re making me hungry. You’re making me hungry. I’ve got to shout out to the guy that helps us with this podcast and editing and putting show notes together. I just want to say, Johnny, be sure you get links to all these brands and people that Eddie’s mentioned that he works with. I think it’d be cool for people to be able to click to the show notes and go straight away to these other companies and learn about them.
Eddie Ledesma-Porter: And I’m super impressed with you, not to flip the script a little bit, but super impressed with you Neil. You’ve got a lot going on. You are doing a lot of really cool things with you being the family man and dropping the kids off and doing all the things. And you seem to- I’m trying to take a few notes from your page, my friend. So, I’m trying to get better every day, and I think that’s the- I love that you have that philosophy. Like I see it. I see it in you and your actions, it is pretty awesome. And, man, I’m there, again, trying to be a student of the business, always trying to learn, always trying to grow and really trying to be better today than I was yesterday.
Neil Dudley: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. It’s been a blast bringing this to you, and I sure hope you enjoyed it and found value. If you did, tell a friend, share it out on social media, hit that subscribe button, or go check us out at pedersonsfarms.com. We sure hope you do. And thanks for being here.
Visit us online at https://pedersonsfarms.com/
(3:46) – May’s Eats
(5:48) – Starting a restaurant in 2020
(10:44) – Where do you get your attitude to always strive for better?
(14:38) – How do you avoid charging high prices?
(18:32) – The catering side of May’s
(20:11) – What would be your perfect catering job?
The Pederson’s Farms Podcast is produced by Johnny Podcasts & Root and Roam.