Rolling up Mexican flavour in Rotary Park

Sick of slopping sewage, Ray Mazurak moved to avocadoes. Between bouts of burrito building, the animated 27-year-old entrepreneur talked shop on…

Sick of slopping sewage, Ray Mazurak moved to avocadoes.

Between bouts of burrito building, the animated 27-year-old entrepreneur talked shop on Monday afternoon.

“Look at the big behemoth,” he said, passing a bursting chicken burrito to a customer in Rotary Peace Park.

It’s Mazurak’s first summer selling take-away Mexican in Whitehorse and it’s a lot of work.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said with a laugh.

Every three days, Mazurak makes five litres of guacamole.

“I just spent a couple hours today scooping out two cases of avocadoes,” he said.

There’s also lettuce to shred, cheese to grate and homemade salsa to chop.

The BC native used to spend his summers tree planting, until his girlfriend got a job as a helicopter pilot in Atlin.

Mazurak came up to visit and got five job offers within the first few days.

So he decided to stay.

The couple bought a house in Atlin and Mazurak started driving a sewer truck.

“It was a crappy job,” he said with a grin.

“Pardon the pun.”

That’s when dreams of the burrito cart began to materialize.

Mazurak first started thinking about Mexican take-out in 2005.

“I saw this little restaurant in Vancouver called the Red Burrito that was just a little gold mine. There was a 30-minute wait there all day.

“The secret was fresh, simple food put together well.”

It’s become Mazurak’s mantra.

By December 2006, he was surfing EBay looking for a portable food trailer.

His dream cart materialized in Lantana, Florida.

Still on EBay, Mazurak found a company that would ship the cart to Great Falls, Montana.

He jumped on a plane and flew to Edmonton, bought a truck and drove to Montana.

Things went smoothly, until he got to the border.

Turns out, he had driven three hours away from the commercial border post he needed to cross.

By the time he got to the right border, it was late Saturday night. The brokers wouldn’t be working again until Monday morning.

“And all these people were getting turned away,” he said.

Mazurak bit the bullet and did his own brokerage.

Passing through Edmonton, he picked up kitchen supplies.

It was mid-June.

A few weeks later, he opened shop.

His trial run was the Atlin Music Festival.

“I was slammed,” he said.

“I had to do a run to the grocery store to buy about $300 worth of avocadoes and tomatoes, and I still ran out.”

Mazurak begged his friends to jump into the cart and help out.

It gave a whole new meaning to the name Compadres Burritos, he said with a grin.

Mazurak would have set up in Whitehorse sooner, but the city had trouble finding a spot for his burrito trailer.

Eventually he set up in the Rotary Peace Park parking lot. But it took a little while for word of mouth to spread that a new food stand was in town garnishing burritos with fresh cilantro and lime.

Now, at lunchtime, Mazurak is run off his feet.

“Lawrence helps me,” he said, pointing to his young helper perched on the trailer hitch.

“We eat a lot of spicy burritos together, and if I make them too spicy I send Lawrence to Riverside (Grocery) for ice cream.”

When he was a teen, Mazurak ran a skate shop with his mom in Smithers, BC.

Ray’z Board shop did well and is still in business, under a new owner.

“There’s something about guys naming stuff after themselves,” he said with a laugh.

So although the business angle isn’t completely new to him, the cooking is.

“It’s trial and error,” said Mazurak.

“My girlfriend and I made a lot of Mexican in the last year and a half.”

Mazurak doesn’t cut corners.

He uses dried beans, makes fresh salsa and guacamole and seasons his chicken and beef like a pro.

“It’s pretty time consuming,” he said.

The tortillas and a few other products are shipped in from the south and Mazurak learned the hard way, that shipping costs sometimes rival the original costs of the product.

He buys the fresh produce in town, but limes and cilantro can be difficult to find, he said.

Things have started to slow down for the burrito builder since the temperature plummeted.

“But as soon as the sun shines, business is good.”

Mazurak and his cart are trucking to Vancouver Island for the winter.

“I have a little spot in the inner harbour,” he said.

“It beats diamond drilling.”

During his winter in the south, Mazurak also hopes to earn the final few credits of his physical education degree, “to make Mom happy.”

In hindsight, Mazurak wishes he’d studied business.

But learning “on the fly” seems to be working.

Next summer, Mazurak will be back in Whitehorse rolling burritos.

For a taste of take-away Mexican, head to Rotary Peace Park for lunch between 11:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. or dinner between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday.