Melbourne chef Matt Lane has been on a mission to open the taco restaurant of his dreams. Hotel Jesus is everything he always wanted.
Since discovering a world of yummy Mexican corn-based snacks beyond your standard Old El Paso, Melbourne chef Matt Lane has been on a mission to open the taco restaurant of his dreams. Hotel Jesus is everything he always wanted.
Describe Hotel Jesus in a sentence, please. A true representation of a marisqueria meets taqueria meets restaurant meets cantina. Confused yet?
How does a Melbourne boy become a dedicated Mexican chef? My first experience of real Mexican food was after a drunken night out in Seville. I got home with my flatmate – a chef from Mexico – and he cooked up some tacos. There was no cheese, sour cream or crunchy tortillas, but they were mind-blowingly delicious. I spent the next few years following my Mexican food obsession through New York and Oaxaca, before coming back to Melbourne and opening Mamasita.
Mamasita has been a huge success. Why did you decide to move onto Hotel Jesus? When I opened Mamasita, there were literally no Mexican chefs in Melbourne. So I trained a few guys up and we opened a great but pretty safe restaurant. Call it ‘Melbourne Mexican’. Hotel Jesus is the restaurant I wish I could have opened eight years ago: an actual Mexican taqueria. When you come in here you feel transported to Mexico. I’ve seen Mexican men get teary while eating our food – no lie.
What was it like starting Hotel Jesus? This is the fourth time I’ve set up a business from scratch, but it was the hardest one I’ve done. Firstly, the design aspect was so intensely detailed. We had our Mexican Head Chef back in Mexico sourcing everything from pieces of cooking equipment to the plastic cups and plates they use in streetside taquerias. I searched for the right tiles for over a year! Then there were endless regulatory hurdles to overcome and a menu to design – how authentically Mexican could we go without scaring off our diners? In the end, we opened nine months later than we thought we would. It almost killed us financially and emotionally. Glad to say we’re rocking now, though.
What was a small win that led to a big thing in your business? In short, learning to use digital platforms to take care of the receipts, invoicing, bookkeeping, rostering and stocktaking that I used to spend more than half my weekly hours on! Now I can spend so much more time actually doing what I love doing: designing and making amazing Mexican food.
What tools have you found useful in keeping Hotel Jesus running? Bookkeeping is probably the most time-consuming and boring aspect of running a business, particularly for any creative person, but it’s also so, so important. Platforms like MYOB have just made it that much easier and quicker for me to stay productive and organised, which means not only more time in the kitchen, but also more time to spend with my wonderful wife and two awesome kids.
What’s the best thing about your job? Happy diners. Seriously. When people get what we’re trying to do and are blown away by it. That’s the magic that makes you want to get up and do it all again.
This excellent story of taco domination was created in collaboration with MYOB to celebrate small wins that lead to big things for small business. Matt uses cloud-based accounting software from MYOB to get things done.
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