During his time in graduate school, John Schall says he started a progressive left-wing company and later became Massachusetts’ first recycling director. He also started a restaurant company even though he had no experience running a restaurant.
Six years ago, as a white male in his 50’s, he opened an authentic Mexican restaurant, El Jefe’s Taqueria. Having a lot of Latin staff that worked for him for a long time, he took over a taqueria that became available in Harvard Square.
This was his second try at a restaurant company, he said, after a board of directors took control over his first one “FiRE + Ice” which was an American restaurant. Schall says the board wandered away from the vision he had for the company and it soon after closed its doors. Having complete control this time, together with his Mexican American chef Fidencio Sevedro, Schall says they developed the concept of El Jefe’s Taqueria, inspired by traditional Mexican family recipes.
For Schall, it is not only the authentic food that makes El Jefe’s Taqueria special. He said part of the company identity is fair wages and the fight for social justice issues. Being a part of the organization “Businesses for a Fair Minimum wage”, he said he helped pass a bill that raised the minimum wage from $11 to $15 in Massachusetts.
For a campaign to pass a similar bill in Pennsylvania, the kick-off by the government was held at El Jefe’s Taqueria in Bethlehem, Pa.
“Treating people well, treating people right, treating people fairly, having an environment where people don’t get yelled at … when they’re respected as workers … all of that is an important part of … what El Jefe is trying to do.”