MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — September is National Hispanic Heritage month, and a Twin Cities family has a story that took them from a small kitchen to a big business.
Cathy Cruz Gooch and her family have a secret recipe for making tortillas. But when Cargill and McDonald’s found out about it, the family tortillas were no longer a secret.
“As a little girl I worked side-by-side with my mother, and her recipes were inspired by my grandmother,” Cathy said.
Cathy’s grandmother brought those family recipes with her when she came to Minnesota from Mexico in the early 1900s. More than a century later, one recipe in particular has stood the test of time.
“I remember tortillas always being the foundation of all of our meals as a bread staple,” Cathy said.
But Cathy never imagined making tortillas would lead to major business. Neither did her husband, Harold.
“When I grew up in Duluth, we didn’t even know what tortillas were,” Harold said.
In the mid-80s the couple saw a need for authentic Mexican food in the Twin Cities, so they began bringing tortillas to the people — even while they worked full-time jobs. First friends and family took notice, then came the retailers.
“I was a key salesperson, and I would go out and sell one case at a time to local grocery stores. And the business evolved from there,” Cathy said.
Did it ever. Their big break came in 1991, when they caught the attention of a major fast food chain.
“McDonald’s found our product, they contacted us, and we say that was the phone call of a life time,” Cathy said.
Cargill also became a partner and helped them launch their food processing plant.
Today, Catallia Mexican Foods makes more than four million tortillas in a single day. If you’ve ever had a McDonald’s breakfast burrito, there’s a good chance Cathy and her family made it.
“We always like to say there is no tortilla like it,” Cathy said.
From a tiny kitchen to what you see today, recognition and awards have followed all thanks to a family recipe.
But for Cathy and Harold, the real reward is watching their children take their dream and run with it.
“I think that’s been the most satisfying for Cathy and I…to see them come in, step in, and take things over a little bit,” Harold said.
“To this day it really is a dream come true. We are just so blessed to have our family involved in the business,” Cathy said.
Cathy’s family also sells tortillas called “Frescados” to supermarkets.
They say their hope is to open another factory in the future.