Resilience is rooted into the very being of who Limon Rotisserie is. The retail restaurant’s 524 Valencia Street location caught on fire during the Great Recession of 2008, but that did not stop Executive Chef Martín Castillo and his brothers Antonio and Eduardo from rebuilding and expanding into more restaurant locations.
Besides Limon’s four locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, it can be found at the San Francisco International Airport, Kapolei in Hawaii and as a food truck at weddings and major events. Now in 2020, not even the pandemic’s upheaval can prevent the chef brothers from turning out crowd favorite Peruvian dishes.
I sat down with Melissa Palomino, Limon’s Corporate Chef, to understand how a recognizable restaurant like theirs is doing during these turbulent times.
Chef Palomino, who once sent a letter of interest to the chef brothers as her culinary education was coming to an end, standardizes the quality and taste of dishes. She works out of the restaurant’s 1001 South Van Ness Ave. location, where food products are conceptualized and recipes are tested.
Limon’s test kitchen is where marinades for their famous Pollo a la Brasa (rotisserie chicken) are made from scratch and distributed to each restaurant location every day.
When the Pandemic Hit
While the world was ordered to stay home, Limon had to let go of more than 30 employees at each location. To make matters more dire, the restaurant’s revenue saw a free fall in numbers.
With unbending resolve, the Castillo brothers acted swiftly to take care of their business, employees, and customers.
“Rather than showing their stress outwardly, they adapted to the situation and asked what they could do given the circumstances,” said Chef Palomino. “The brothers fought to survive.”
A Love for Their Community
Limon is managing to pull its numbers up from the first month of stay at home orders, even with reduced staff, hours and resources. The restaurant still has a long way to go to catch up to their previous numbers, but given the new standards in place, they are doing the best they can.
Customers have also thanked the restaurant for being open for takeout during a time of looming fear and anxiety.
Those that stayed on to assist with takeout orders are giving it their all.
Mama Luz, mother of the chef brothers and a celebrated cook in her own right—some of the restaurant’s most celebrated (and secretive) recipes are derived from her own—sewed face masks for staff working at each open location (the Kapolei restaurant is temporarily closed).
Meals were also made and delivered to healthcare workers at Mills Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, California.
There is Beauty in Resilience
Mayor London Breed approved outdoor dining as of June 15 and indoor dining by July 13. However, with ongoing protests, Limon Rotisserie may push its dates back to ensure collective safety.
“Let’s stay together in unity to protect one another with love and compassion. Stay safe. We love you Bay Area,” said Limon in an Instagram post addressing loss and grief in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
“There’s a lot of beauty in resilience,” said Chef Palomino.
Being resilient is who Limon has come to be and what they’ll continue to do as they prepare classic Peruvian dishes for their customers and community every single day. So rest assured, when each of Limon’s restaurant locations are in full dining swing again, there will be lots of beauty all around to see and taste.