From dishwasher to business owner, entrepreneur cooks his way to the top


Para la versión en español de esta historia, por favor oprima aqui.

Carlos Barcenas contributed to this blog.

Ciro Cortez has worked in the restaurant industry since he was a 16-year-old dishwasher in California. Four months later, he was promoted to kitchen assistant, then to cook, and he kept rising through the culinary ranks until he was a chef in charge of an entire kitchen.

After becoming an expert in preparing cuisines including Argentinian and Italian, Ciro owned two restaurants in Florida. He sold those and was looking for a new opportunity when his daughter invited him to Nebraska.

“My daughter told me there were good-paying jobs and I should give it a try,” said Ciro. “Within two weeks, I was working at the meatpacking plant and I started selling burritos there. The people I worked with at the plant liked them very much.”

Today, he owns The Yellow Taco Truck, in Nebraska City, Nebraska, which specializes in food from where he grew up in Mexico.

“I always had managers and bosses who pushed me to start my own business, especially for a taco truck, and I kept learning about that process,” said Ciro. “I am in love with the richness and variety of Mexican cuisine, probably because of my heritage, so I told myself in the future I want to have my own business, and I made it happen.”

He was able to buy his food truck with a loan from the Center for Rural Affairs, and he opened his business in December 2020.

Ciro and his wife, Maria, work full-time, serving tacos with meats including chicharron (pork rind), buche (pork maw), tripe, tongue, head, barbacoa (beef), chicken, carne asada (steak), carnitas (pork), al pastor (grilled pork), and chorizo. They also make burritos, tortas, and enchiladas, and they usually have a daily special like tamales or stuffed peppers, among others.

Center Latino Loan Specialist Griselda Rendon worked with the couple throughout the process of starting their business. 

“Ciro and Maria have taken advantage of several of the Center’s trainings, both in person and online,” said Griselda. “They have taken courses on computer and accounting basics, social media skills, as well as attended the Center’s Restaurant Academy. They are now able to focus 100% on the food truck.”

Their next steps include renovating and improving a recently purchased house into a permanent location for their business, complete with three drive-through windows.

Ciro hopes to continue to expand, including event catering and a second truck. He knows he can count on the Center for further guidance down this path if and when he needs it.

“The Center helped me a lot with the startup business programs, their classes, and more,” he said. “I am grateful for their time and the way they explained things because it makes it easy to understand.”

For others looking to get into the restaurant industry, Ciro says, it helps to work as a team.

“My wife and I work together and attend Center classes together. My expertise is knowledge of the food and knowing how to prepare it, and my wife uses her expertise on the business paperwork,” he said. “Working with the Center motivated us and created excitement about starting the business. People tell me I have great seasoning and great-tasting food, and that motivates me to work even harder to move forward.”

At a glance

The Yellow Taco Truck, LLC
Ciro Cortez
318 S. 11th St., Nebraska City, Nebraska
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, closed.