Growing up in Northbrook, Jen Eisen was three-years-old when she begged her mother for an easy bake oven. She was helping her family prepare meals by the time she was seven. At eight, she bought her first subscription to the Martha Stewart Magazine, which she still subscribes to today.
Meanwhile, in Palmer Chico, Mexico, Eloin Amador was mastering the art of Mexican cooking in his family home, using a tradition Mexican plancha to cook tortillas. By the time he was eight, Eloin was cooking enough food to feed his neighborhood.
Years later, the two met as coworkers at Morton Grove's Catering by Michaels, and a collaboration began that culminated in the opening of El Mexican Restaurant in Glenview last Friday.
The restaurant offers basic, authentic Mexican fare of tacos, burritos, salads and empanadas, but makes its food with humanely raised meat purchased from Midwestern farms.
The restaurant offers a small seating area and carry out service. Each dish is made to order and delivery service is scheduled to launch in January.
“We use only the freshest ingredients,” said Eisen, now 27, whose passion for the food industry is apparent in her enthusiasm for the new restaurant. “Our tortillas and cheese are made in house and we use locally sourced products."
Eisen graduated from Glenbrook North High School in 2003, then earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition from Benedictine University in Lisle. She continued to follow her passion at Kendall College where she studied Culinary Arts. Shortly after her studies there, she began working for Stephanie Izard, famed Top Chef Winner and proprietor of the hip Chicago Restaurant, Girl & the Goat. Eisen served as a personal assistant to Izard and also as an opening line cook at Girl & the Goat.
Amador, now 33, began has been working in professional kitchens in the U.S. since 1995. He started as a dishwasher, but kept studying the industry and gradually worked his way up until he found opportunities at chic Chicago restaurants such as Gioco and Spiaggia. His attention to quality of ingredients, flavors and balancing of dishes buoyed his growth as a chef. Working as a Sous Chef at Catering by Michaels, he met Eisen.
The pair soon decided to open their own catering company, and in 2009 The Roots Catering was born, a “boutique” catering company as Eisen calls it.
“Whatever you want, we’ll make,” she said.
In fact, part of the decision to open El was inspired by the growth of their catering company — they needed a bigger kitchen.
“This way we can use the restaurant’s kitchen for The Roots Catering as well,” Eisen said.
Eisen continues to work for Stephanie Izard, Inc., and sits on the board of the Spence Farm Foundation, a foundation which is focused on sustainable small family farming.