From migrant worker to restaurant owner, Jose Mojica has fulfilled a lifetime dream of opening his own restaurant with Azul Tequila in Payson.
Azul Tequila, which translates to blue tequila, serves traditional Mexican fare with Jose’s own twist.
Jose said he is proud to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to a town that has mostly Tex-Mex restaurants.
“I want to keep the standard dishes,” he said, “and offer good service.”
Open Azul Tequila’s extensive five-page menu and dishes include chicken tortilla soup, fajitas, chimichangas, burritos, tamales, enchiladas, 17 seafood dishes, six pork dinners, half a dozen salads and appetizers.
A chef Jose has worked with for the last 10 years in North Carolina cooks most of the meals.
Before opening Azul Tequila, Jose worked at a North Carolina Mexican restaurant, where he was part owner. After 10 years, Jose’s business partner decided to end their contract and close the restaurant.
Using the knowledge he learned running a restaurant, Jose decided to open his own restaurant in Arizona. In late June, Jose opened Azul Tequila with the help of his wife Maria Mojica.
“I work 10 years and the whole time I dream of opening up my own restaurant,” he said, “and work under my own rules.”
The only problem, Jose did not know where he wanted to open a restaurant.
Jose and Maria drove through the state, contemplating prospective towns. When they drove through Payson, Jose said he knew this is where he should open.
“I like the town,” he said.
In April, Jose began the arduous task of acquiring permits and a lease to open Azul. Luckily, Jose did not have to do much to the restaurant itself, which previously housed another Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Mexicana.
“It was very hard to get all the permits,” he said. “But everywhere it is difficult to open.”
Jose is still waiting on approval of his liquor license. Until then, Azul’s bar remains empty of alcohol — a fact customers have noticed. Jose said many customers want to try his margaritas, but he cannot yet serve them.
“I hope to get it soon,” he said.
Eventually, Jose even hopes to sell blue tequila.
Until then, Jose and Maria are focused on improving the restaurant daily. While it has not been hard to find help, finding workers who want to work has been another story.
“A lot want a job, but they don’t want to work,” he said.
Jose, who migrated to the U.S. some 35 years ago from Mexico, said he has worked hard to get where he is today. From working in construction to restaurants and every job in between, Jose worked his way up, saving for when he could one day work for himself.
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