Real Taste Taqueria’s quick meal took years in the making
There is no separating Curiel and Erica Bame from Real Taste Taqueria and Food Truck. It’s the culmination of their ventures and the recognition of their failures. In the process of finding the balance between food truck and restaurant, the two also found success.
From an early age, Curiel Bame said he knew what he wanted to do as a child in El Paso, Texas, between days spent with his mother and grandmother cooking authentic Mexican cuisine and observing his father’s own his own martial arts business.
In 2001, Curiel Bame was dropped off at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh. After graduating, he worked under Greg Alauzen for about five years at the Marriott Corporation, but later followed the chef to Mad Mex, a concept by Big Burrito Restaurant Group.
Curiel Bame continued to work with Chef Alauzen when he opened Eleven, which became a 4-star dining restaurant.
“It was a cook’s dream to train under Chef Greg to learn the discipline and what is required to work in a proper kitchen,” said Curiel Bame.
He later worked under Yves Carreau as a sous-chef as the Sonoma Grille opened in late 2004. The grill was a fine dining concept which focused on west coast flavors.
“Greg taught me the concept of proper cooking techniques and Yves taught me the business aspect of how actually to make a living doing what I love, “ said Curiel Bame.
Carreau allowed Curiel Bame to open Seviche in 2007; This was Curiel Bame’s first job as an executive chef.
By 2008, Curiel Bame moved away from Pittsburgh to have his first child.
“You’re only as good as your last dish, I took this with me from the City,” said Curiel Bame. He went to central pennsylvania, and while adjusting to the small amount of people, fell in love with the countryside. After cooking at nursing homes and colleges, Curiel Bame eventually found himself as the executive chef at the Genetti where he met his wife, Erica.
But, Curiel Bame’s next foray into fine dining and lesson to be learned was in 2012 at The Joint in Williamsport, which he opened with Vince DiSalvo. The restaurant, ran into internal issues from another partner, that eventually compounded and ended up in the closure of The Joint said Curiel Bame.
“That was a huge learning opportunity for me because I never actually closed a restaurant,” said Curiel Bame.
To break the routine that many central pennsylvanians find themselves in, Curiel Bame said he realized that he needed to go to where they are, namely, buy a food truck.
In 2016, when Williamsport started to allow food trucks, he bought his second food truck. His first truck was bought in 2012, but with Williamsport being so restrictive, he later sold it.
Lacking the overhead to get the truck a paint job, Curiel Bame kept the Real Taste name of the truck– which still stunk of curry from its use in D.C — and purple paint job. Working nights on weekends, he slowly began to draw customers.
“If it wasn’t for Vincent DiSalvo and DiSalvos, Real Taste wouldn’t have became a reality through their love and compassion as a long standing food institution in the Williamsport Area,” said Curiel Bame.
Nick Cowles, owner and operator of the Grilled Cheese Cafe food truck, helped Curiel Bame with the logistics of working in a food truck.
“During the fall of 2017, I decided to follow my original dream to work for myself,” said Curiel Bame. “I knew that I was going to get back into a brick and mortar restaurants.” He decided on Jersey Shore because the borough was able to work with him during the updating of his building at 909 Allegheny St., Jersey Shore,
“I could park my truck in my parking lot. And, I could sell tacos during the day and I could come in during night or have contractors working during the day,” said Curiel Bame. When the restaurant opened in October of 2018, the plan was to dial back the food truck portion. However Curiel Bame found it worked as advertising for the restaurant, growing the customer base.
“It’s allowing us to grow our business correctly,” he said.
Erica Bame, who worked in advertising for several years, said she knows the importance that people place on not being “Just another number.” She said she wants customers to feel comfortable and know they’re important.