Atzimba Perez, founder, and chef of Atzimba Catering and Events started her business in 2014 and since then, she’s been working with the IHCC, which she considers family. “I started my business thanks to the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and to Silvia Bonilla, the Illinois Small Business Development Center Director,” explains the chef. “This team has been so helpful for my business, for my staff, they’re like family.”
Atzimba Catering and Events focuses on Mexican and Pre-Hispanic traditional and international cuisine. Pre-Hispanic Mexican food is based on ingredients and traditional recipes that the Mayans and Aztecs developed prior to the Spanish conquest. Indigenous staples include corn, beans, avocados, tomatoes, and peppers. “The recipes that I use for my catering company are very traditional, these are recipes that were passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me, which is very common in our culture,” she says. She feels that in Mexican culture, it’s food that unites families and she likes sharing that aspect of her cuisine with her clients. Some of her recipes include green mole from Michoacán, corundas, sweet guava, strawberry tamales, Oaxacan tamales, Mexican cheesecake with chocolate, peach, and blueberry. She studied culinary arts and hospitality in Michoacán, Mexico, and graduated from Conalep Morelia Uno Technical College in 1995, so she’s been in the industry for over 25 years.
The pandemic taught her to be resilient
Like most small businesses during the pandemic, her catering business suffered, but this taught her to be strong. “I’ve learned to be resilient and to have faith and hope,” she says. In 2020, when the pandemic started, she joined 20 of Chicago’s best LatinX chefs for Pilsen Gourmet where she served hundreds, and after the city closed, she had no work. “I felt so bad for my employees, for my servers, bartenders, cooks, but this didn’t stop me from trying other things,” says Perez.
She says that every struggle eventually passes, and it did. She’s learned that to be successful in this industry, you must stay united and offer and ask for help when you need it. Some chefs came to her for help and together, they did some events to continue to be profitable. “This pandemic taught me that you don’t need a lot to be happy and that we have to be more united and help each other,” she says. Working with the chamber has helped her not only connect with other businesses but provided her with many resources to stay in business, including helping her apply for a $5,000 grant from Office Depot, which she received. The IHCC is constantly working with various organizations and businesses that offer grants for small businesses.
Food is her legacy
One of Perez’s goals is to leave behind a legacy for her family and for the younger generations because no matter what your profession is, you could help others. “Through food or through your business, you must be generous and pass those flavors and that cuisine that has been passed on from generation to generation. “For me, there are three things that are important, to share my recipes, to save them and make them current, and to care for the well-being of others through food,” she says. Through her catering company, she has volunteered her time for DACA and St. Jude and has teamed up with other chefs to raise funds for these organizations. “Let’s not forget to be generous, to be resilient, and to stay united so that we can be successful together,” she says.