Mexicans on the move

Steven Marks and Courtney James Smith out front of the new Guzman Y Gomez that is in the old Planet Video shop. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d425954
Steven Marks and Courtney James Smith out front of the new Guzman Y Gomez that is in the old Planet Video shop. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d425954

The Guardian Express talked to founder Steven Marks last week when he was in Perth to launch the second eatery in Mt Lawley, about the name, the artwork and the charity as well as the food.

The New Yorker worked in hedge funds before moving to Bondi where the Guzman Y Gomez concept was born.

‘What people thought was Mexican was not,’ Marks, a father-of-two daughters, said.

He opened his first restaurant in Newtown in October 2006 and Mt Lawley is the 44th Australian Guzman Y Gomez, which was named after two of Marks’ friends.

Luis Guzman and Mike Gomez got the naming honours but images of their dads are the cornerstone of the brand, along with the artwork.

Marks said his aim was to have the biggest urban artwork collection in the world.

He said every Guzman Y Gomez restaurant had an original artwork by one of several Mexican artists who he had sought out.

Every restaurant is also a fundraising site for Misi´┐Żn Mexico, a refuge for neglected and abused street kids in the south of Mexico that is run by Australian couple Alan and Pam Skuse.

Marks said 250 children had gone through the refuge, but one stuck in his mind.

‘Seven years ago I told one of the older street kids that if he did well at school I’d send him to university,’ he said. ‘He just graduated from university in Australia, is 22 now and works in GYG.’

Today is Mexican Independence Day so $1 from every burrito sold at Guzman Y Gomez shops will be donated to the refuge.

Marks has entrusted his brand to Courtney James Smith who owns the Northbridge outlet, which opened 18 months ago, and now Mt Lawley that is in the former Planet Video site.

‘I used to listen to records there and buy clothes from out the back,’ Smith said.

The Canadian met Marks three years ago and said he drew on Latin heritage from his mother’s side to ensure an authentic offering of fresh, made-to-order Mexican food and experience.