Cocina DeLeon pioneers Mexican take and bake in Brookfield
When Linda Mulholland and her husband, Jan, started their own business four years ago, they decided to go for the whole enchilada. Actually, many enchiladas.
Their Cocina DeLeon in the Galleria West shopping center on Bluemound Road in Brookfield fits into a small and uncommon dining industry niche – take and bake Mexican food. The Mulhollands specialize in gourmet enchiladas, offering 11 different varieties made in their commercial kitchen and sold frozen to customers.
The business began in the kitchen of their Brookfield home and now operates out of the Galleria West storefront. They also do catering and have begun wholesaling the enchiladas to a small number of selected grocery stores.
Cocina DeLeon's roots go back to Monterrey, Mexico, the hometown of Linda Mulholland's mother, who emigrated to the U.S. when she was 23. Growing up in Bloomington, Ill., Linda learned to cook at her mother's elbow.
The family packed the car every summer and drove to Monterrey for a monthlong stay. There Linda learned more about Mexican cuisine from aunts and uncles. "Everything was from scratch, and every ingredient was natural," she said during a morning chat at her Brookfield store.
With a home and family of her own, Mulholland, who is a free lance writer, enjoyed giving dinner parties, and she always served enchiladas made from her mom's recipes. Guests raved and urged her to sell them.
A confluence of factors four years ago made Cocina DeLeon happen. The Mulhollands' 17-year-old son, Andrew, has cerebral palsy, and Linda had long thought about establishing a business that would employ him when he was finished with school.
"The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 78%," she said. Linda writes a monthly column for Metro Parent magazine about raising children with disabilities.
Jan Mulholland lost his job as a top executive of a Franklin firm during the financial crash. The couple decided to sink their life savings into making enchiladas.
Cocina DeLeon began with sales to friends and acquaintances. That soon expanded into selling at farmer's markets, which by law required moving operations into a rented commercial kitchen. The enchiladas were becoming so popular, customers were knocking on the facility's door, asking to buy them straight out of the kitchen.
"Health department regulations did not permit the public to enter the kitchen, so we couldn't let people step inside," Linda said. "We had to pass the food out to them, and they handed us cash."
Two years ago Cocina DeLeon moved into a Galleria West space that allows them to have the kitchen side by side with an attractive retail store. One wall of the shop is lined with freezers containing pans of the different enchilada varieties. About 2,000 enchiladas are sold every week.
Three types of beef enchiladas – ground, slow cooked pulled and hormone-free grass fed – are offered along with such enchilada standards as chicken, pulled pork, and cheese and onion. The menu then stretches to the unusual and the downright exotic.
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I've been to Monterrey many times for work so I am interested in giving these a try. I just hope they don't put yellow cheese (aka cheddar) on these. That's a no-no in that region.
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