Meet the Ballet Dancer Who Started His Own Chimichurri & Salsa Company
How did you start Mesa Fresca?
My family is from Argentina, and we grew up eating culturally authentic Hispanic meals. Asado, an Argentine BBQ, was always a weekend event for us, and on Sundays my dad would fire up the grill while my mom made her authentic chimichurri sauce. Our family and friends would gather, enjoy the time, and at the end of the meal people would ask to take a jar of chimichurri home or for my mom to make them a special order. We were onto something.
I had been dancing abroad with the National Ballet of Croatia, and after completing my first year at Johnson & Wales University [a world class culinary school in Rhode Island] in 2014, I knew it was time to start Mesa Fresca.
My sister had been making and selling our chimichurri to friends, coworkers and family for a couple of years. I was on a summer lay-off and approached her about incorporating and starting a proper business. We took a road trip to a local chip factory for inspiration, and on that drive we came up with the name, Mesa Fresca (Fresh Table).
How do you balance your two careers?
One of the challenges of working in a regional ballet company is the long summer lay-off. I decided to use this time to my advantage. My strategy was to focus on growth and development of Mesa Fresca during the summer months, while I was free, and sustain a steady operation during the dancing season.
Does being a dancer inform the business?
Dancers are their own brand. You work to perfect your technique and artistry, audition, sign contracts and try to perform at your highest potential.
Owning a food brand is very similar. We spent time crafting, testing and perfecting our recipes, we work hard to improve brand awareness, increase sales channels and educate consumers. In a sense, we audition when we meet with buyers who can bring our products into their stores.
There are many skills that we learn as dancers that we might not even be aware we have. I believe that dancers are some of the smartest, most dedicated, hard-working, talented individuals in the workforce.
Can you elaborate on that? What makes dancers so special?
As a dancer, you’re often learning several pieces at the same time, receiving and applying multiple corrections, listening to the music, thinking about choreography, and making all of those moving parts come together seamlessly. This mind/body training translates into better work habits.
My own honed skills allow me to think faster and more clearly, and to use my time efficiently and effectively. There’s absolutely a relationship between my skill as a dancer and my work as a business owner.
What would you tell other dancers about your career?
It’s important to explore other activities and things you’re passionate about in conjunction with a dance career. Maintaining a work/life balance alongside hobbies and interests outside of dance makes you more well-rounded, and I highly encourage continuous learning.
A ballet career is relatively short; it’s never too early or late to do anything in life. Go for it!