La Nueva Esperanza – A Master of His Craft


      A chef is an artist – an artist of fine cuisine who moves hearts with the cut of a knife and swift turns of a spatula. The pinches of salt and spice are so precise, one might think it’s bits of magic. A restaurant is a place of passion and culture entwined with mouthwatering food; and this is the enchantment that is La Nueva Esperanza and its owner, Don Jose. The lovely restaurant comes from the hardships and challenges its owner had to go through when he came to this country. Don Jose -born and raised in Mexico- came to this country not knowing how to cook, a role customarily thrust onto women in his birthplace. He then spends years in and out of restaurants washing dishes and wiping tables. He, however, was not content with the work and life he had and realized working for someone else was not something he enjoyed doing. He wanted to be his own boss and craved the liberty that came with it. Jose then formulated his plan and began asking to help the chef’s cook, asking to watch and maybe get some lessons on the art. That is where the real magic happened. He slowly but surely learned how to cook – all while saving up all the money he could. 

      The restaurant on 53 Myrtle Ave. in Passaic is the living proof Don Jose is a progressive individual. Coming to this country with almost nothing and making something out of yourself is as beautiful as it is hard. La Nueva Esperanza is an irresistible, simple restaurant with authentic food. When asked what inspired the food he cooks he states, “Of course my culture that I love, but also my environment.” Don Jose studied his surroundings and realized he is in the middle of an area filled with Mexican-Americans that would love a little reminder of their home country and the food and culture that comes with it. Don Jose is an extremely smart man that knows how to gather and retain clients and what is needed for a restaurant to thrive and be successful. 

      When COVID-19 hit, businesses were hit hard, and La Nueva Esperanza wasn’t an exception. Don Jose was sadly a victim of COVID-19 and was hospitalized for 2 months – and because of this, his restaurant was closed. This caused tremendous problems for Don Jose, as he had dues to pay and taxes to fill even as he battled the virus. With the restaurant closed, he had no income for those 2 months and when he thankfully was discharged, a load of dues were dropped in his lap. Don Jose states that even now he still has things to pay off, thankfully the spread of COVID has minimized, and with the vaccine out, the situation has improved.

      La Nueva Esperanza is a beautifully created restaurant with a heart-moving story of a man coming from nothing fighting against hardships and creating a beautiful masterpiece. The restaurant feels as if one has entered a dreamland, the happy chatter, the fragrances, the colorful and vibrant colors. It felt like a room filled with family and friends, the warm and comfortable ambiance made it feel like home. Portraits fill the walls, beautiful memories captured, framed, and plastered all around. Walking around felt like reading a story. Baseball trophies along with pictures of the owner with the baseball team he coaches had their own little section, beautifully decorated -capturing the essence of the sport and the smiles of the players. In the left corner is a sacred place filled with religious pictures and text, surrounded by colorful flowers – displaying their love for God and encircling him with grace. In the right corner hung a flag, the vibrant spread a display of culture and pride. 

The chef is an artist of food. The chef moved as if he had his own personal opera playing within. At times he moved as though he were the bow of the cello, steady and deep. Other times he was the violin in some rapid dance. Yet whatever rhythms flowed in his soul from day to day, be they tranquil seas or tempests, what he made was so heavenly.  (Angela Abraham, May 13, 2019)

       La Nueva Esperanza is a beautifully crafted restaurant everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Owner and Chef Don Jose will be waiting with open arms and a wide smile.