Rene's Mexican Kitchen fulfills dream for Taco Bus founder after tragic accident

Rene Valenzuela returns to his passion of cooking after a delayed opening of his new "Mexican" kitchen.
After a horrific burn accident Taco Bus founder Rene Valenzuela is back to fulfilling his dream of opening his own venture. He opened Rene's Mexican Kitchen this past weekend at 7206 N Dale Mabry Highway. Special to the Times| Rene Valenzuela
After a horrific burn accident Taco Bus founder Rene Valenzuela is back to fulfilling his dream of opening his own venture. He opened Rene's Mexican Kitchen this past weekend at 7206 N Dale Mabry Highway. Special to the Times| Rene Valenzuela
Published December 20 2018

TAMPA — Just when things were looking promising for Taco Bus founder, Rene Valenzuela, and his dream of opening his own concept, Rene's Mexican Kitchen, he endured yet another setback.

Valenzuela found a good spot to operate his food truck at 108 E Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Seminole Heights, but the city did not approve of that location. So after operating there only for a month, he had to pack up and search for a new home.

He found his new home within a few months and recently opened last weekend at 7206 N Dale Mabry Highway, across from Florida Hospital Carrollwood.

Valenzuela couldn't be happier to finally live out his dream after overcoming a horrific gas explosion that landed him in the hospital with severe burns.

“We had a slow start after I left Taco Bus that delayed the opening,” said Valenzuela, who sold a major share of the chain he founded to an investor.

“Then the accident took me out of circulation for a good six months, but I’m enjoying going back to cooking and doing what I love. This is a comeback to my roots. This is me coming back especially after the accident, I discovered I wanted to do the food that I was destined to cook.”

And while various restaurants continue to create their own contemporary twists on Mexican cuisine, Valenzuela takes a different approach, and likes to cook food the traditional Mexican way.

He said many of his recipes are passed down from several generations and date back to the 1800s such as the Chicharron, which is a fried pork dish made in the 1800s that was also used as a way to reserve pork.

His kitchen also offers three other traditional Mexican dishes dear to his heart including the pirata, which is a grilled skirt steak, the grianga, a grilled pork al pastor with grilled pineapple, avocado and cheese, or the Campechana, which is a specialty burrito made with a combination of grilled skirt steak, grilled pork al pastor and grilled pineapple, guacamole and cheese.

In addition to the food truck, Rene's Mexican Kitchen offers catering for corporate events, holiday parties, special occasions and more. With the Taco Bus reaching the prominent status it has over the years in the bay area, Valenzuela did not want to do something big, but rather something “small and strong.”

Prices range from $10-$12 and Rene's Mexican Kitchen operates from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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