Antonia Briones-Venegas and Aurelia Mendoza officially opened their Frybread Kitchen in February after both had cooked on their own for years, donating their time and special dishes to events and fundraisers.
“We started working together when our kids joined Soboba Youth Council and we donated time to do food fundraisers,” Briones-Venegas said. “We’ve also done many birthday parties and family functions together. Aurelia volunteered us once to do a pop-up event together and we’ve been doing it as Frybread Kitchen ever since.”
Mendoza’s strengths for cooking are in the different meats that are offered, as well as combinations of foods and different flavorings for the food they make. Briones-Venegas loves to make the beans and is the frybread maker.
“We both make a mean salsa that adds flavor and spice to your dish,” Briones-Venegas said. “One of our main attractions that brought people to our booth and started this would be the Indian tacos and regular tacos.”
She added that her favorite food to make is a combination burrito because it can be changed up in many different ways and is always very filling. Mendoza’s favorite food to make is the birria Indian taco, one of their best sellers. The duo sets up their Frybread Kitchen pop-up two or three times a month depending on the event and location.
“One of our main events we try not to miss is the Soboba vendor pop-ups at the old casino parking lot held at the end of each month,” Briones-Venegas said.
The 2021 NIAA fastpitch tournament, hosted by Soboba has been one of the largest events they have served at so far. They served more than 400 people throughout the Sept. 17-19 event. Earlier this year, they got a steady stream of customers when they set up their kitchen at Soboba Casino Resort’s Food Truck Fiesta in May.
Serving their regular menu and then adding new items like stew and frybread, red chili meat burritos, breakfast burritos, and pozole can sometimes be challenging but the cooks want to keep experimenting with food combinations to see what customers respond to the most. They are always looking forward to adding new items to the menu and adding events they can cater for with a variety of new foods they will be adding.
“One of our biggest challenges is finding our supplies at our local stores in the quantities that are needed,” Briones-Venegas said.
As if maintaining the Frybread Kitchen wasn’t enough to keep these ladies busy, both have many other things on their plates.
“I am a mother of two high school teenagers and a wife of a hard-working husband,” Mendoza said. “Both my children are involved in school sports as well as tribal sports. I try and attend every game, if possible.”
In her spare time, she loves to cook new foods and look for recipes and dishes that can be added to the Frybread Kitchen menu. Lately, she’s been working on some baked goods and sweet treats to add.
“One of my favorite hobbies I turned into a side business is creating gift baskets for different occasions,” Mendoza said. “I recently started attending a low carb cooking class at the Soboba Sports Complex; I love learning new things.”
Briones-Venegas is a full-time mother and wife. Her kids are also involved in school sports and tribal sports, and she tries to attend all their games. She also volunteers to serve on different boards for the tribe. She has served on the Noli Indian School board for the past six years and is currently president. She serves as treasurer for the All Mission Indian Housing Authority board and recently joined the Soboba Foundation board of directors, where she serves as secretary.
“The one thing that I love about sitting on the different boards is that they all know my business comes first and they are always looking for opportunities for us and always giving feedback about our last sales,” she said, adding that their favorite part of owning their own business is that they can set their own hours and days.
Both ladies agree that a highlight of being in this business are the opportunities to meet new people and connect with old friends.
“We would like to thank all of our returning customers and our new ones who will hopefully enjoy our food and come back for more,” Briones-Venegas said. “Our family-owned business would not be possible without the family that stands behind us. A big shout-out to our workers Antiana, Edwin, Grandma Connie, Orlando, Alyssa, Ciara, Jeremiah, Jesse, Kevin and Samuel.”
Follow them on Instagram to see where they will pop up next, @frybread_kitchen.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians