"We've been cooking for the past two or three days, prepare, getting ready and very excited for this moment. It's an opportunity of a lifetime," said Jose Ortiz, owner of La Perla Puerto Rican Cuisine.
His family-run restaurant has been chosen to cater the VIP sections at Oracle Arena for the Warriors first round playoff games. His customers are excited.
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"All right, that is what I am talking about. That is good news," said Willie Lewis, who traveled from Walnut Creek to eat there with his wife.
It was a customer who cooked up this opportunity.
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Ortiz said he made friends with a Panamanian man who would go and buy food at least twice a week. At one point the man said he was on the Warriors cooking staff and recommended the restaurant to the team.
"We did an audition in there. We brought a little bit of everything. And they fell in love with the empanadilla and the sauce," said Ortiz, who proudly wears a cap with a Puerto Rican flag on it.
La Perla is making 1,000 beef empanadillas for Saturday's series opener against the L.A. Clippers and another 1,000 chicken empanadillas for game two on Monday. It's part of an effort by the Warriors to pick local chefs to provide food for the VIP areas in the arena during the playoffs.
Empanadillas are basically turnovers. It is more than just finger food. Ortiz says one could fill you up.
Ortiz has been operating La Perla since December of 2017. He has head chef at Borinquen Soul, which operated at the same location but closed when the owner opened a new venture in another part of Oakland.
He runs the restaurant with his son and daughter-in-law, who were busy packing up the empanadas and taking them Oracle Arena. They also packed up 12 gallons of mango and habanero hot sauce. Habaneros are 140 times hotter than a jalapeno but Ortiz toned down the sauce for the Oracle crowd.
He is also providing gallons of a Puertorican staple - mayoketchup sauce.
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"If you go to a Puertorican restaurant and they don't have mayoketchup, it is time for you to get up and leave because everyone in Puerto Rico eats mayoketchup," jokes Ortiz.
But this is no laughing matter for his business. Ortiz almost tears up speaking about the chance to cook for the Warriors.
"it's very emotional because I'm Boriquan and very proud Boriquan. And to put 'la bandera puertoriqueña en alto,' I cannot describe it,'" said Ortiz as he switched to Spanish to express pride for his country.
That's pride that he has in his food and his culture as well.
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