Karla Vasquez was born in El Salvador and raised in Los Angeles and has always been intrigued by creativity and art. At the age of 13 she began working with her family in the Jewelry district; coming from a family of diamond setters and growing up in the industry she quickly became interested in sales and learning more about the industry. At 16 she put herself through trade school with The Gemological Institute of America and became a Gemologist.
At the age of 18, Karla married Art Vasquez and they soon purchased a home in the Inland Empire near Art’s construction business. Karla continued to pursue her passion in the jewelry industry by creating a line of costume jewelry. Art’s construction business, A2Z, expanded to Orange County and the couple moved to south Orange County. A2Z has been in business for over a decade and has recently expanded to Los Angeles.
In 2001, Karla and Art received the news that Art’s mom, Roselia “Chela”, had leukemia. After spending only 20 days in the hospital without the chance to fight and receive chemo treatments she lost her battle to cancer. Though Karla Vasquez may not have known it at the time, Chela’s memory would live on in a very important way.
Karla and Art had three boys over the next few years and Karla began building her interior design business after attending Interior Designer’s Institute in Newport Beach. In 2010, the idea of opening a restaurant continued to surface. They wanted a casual, fresh, and inviting restaurant that would represent their Michoacán style recipes. Art invited his brother to join in the venture and while Karla was busy with her interior design, she became involved as well.
With no restaurant experience, Karla was pivotal in the development of Chelas from early on. Her love of cooking and family was a natural fit as she created recipes, focus groups, designed the restaurant space, and ultimately the menu. In March 2011 Chelas Mexican Grill opened.
A few months later, Karla ended up inheriting the restaurant for herself and became the person that was going to determine Chelas success or failure. Having a restaurant was never Karla’s dream, but with time she developed a passion for the industry and everything involved with being a restaurant owner. She took culinary courses with a well-known Laguna Beach chef and quite soon discovered the art and creativity involved in a chef’s life. This is when her love of design and food merged and she fully realized that cooking is an art which could use to create culinary dishes.
Because of Karla Vasquez’ determination, tenacity and strength, Chelas Mexican Grill just celebrated their 6th anniversary in March of 2017. Chelas won Top 3 Best Tacos of OC in Orange Coast Magazine in November 2016. Karla says that she and her husband genuinely love feeding people and when you feed someone you give them a piece of your heart. Karla’s future plans include culinary school and she is currently pursuing opening more Chelas Mexican Grill locations around Orange County to share their dishes with more people.