CASSELBERRY, Fla. – Starting his own restaurant has been something of an uphill battle for Alex Diaz.
“It’s like I wake up and I fight every day,” he said.
Diaz is the chef and owner at Alex’s Fresh Kitchen in Casselberry. He said the location of his restaurant has been part of the challenge.
“Casselberry is hard. Casselberry is tough. It’s one of the hardest places I’ve worked at,” Diaz said.
Alex’s Fresh Kitchen sits at 1015 State Road 436 in Suite 109 of a strip mall. The restaurant is also sandwiched between several chains, including a Wawa and a Tijuana Flats, so it took Diaz a while to establish his business.
The challenge was made even more difficult by the pandemic.
“Originally, when I opened (the restaurant) I opened from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and I was just doing breakfast and lunch,” Diaz said. “And then COVID came. So, we had to adapt to the hours and do takeout only try to do dinner. So, I started creating all this stuff and a lot of people started liking what we were doing, but it was kind of getting out of what we do. So, it’s very hard.”
Even after pandemic restrictions eased, Diaz faced new challenges from the politically charged climate.
Check out the Florida Foodie podcast. You can find every episode in the media player below:
“I don’t play politics and I don’t want to bring that in my restaurant. I want everyone to come to my restaurant, but I don’t want people to come in here talk about politics. So it was very hard to gain certain trust in this area,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Diaz loves the work of running his own restaurant.
“Cooking and meeting and captivating — catching all these people together and bringing them all together, whether they like a burger or vegan burger or chicken sandwich or whatever it is. It’s really heartwarming — makes me get up in the morning,” he said.
His love for his work is so profound, Diaz actually got some menu items tattooed on his arms, including the Mamba burger, the chicken and waffles and the lemon pie.
On the latest episode of the Florida Foodie podcast, Diaz shares how he went from corporate kitchens with Darden to opening his own restaurant. He also talks about what it was like growing up with a father who worked as a chef and how it is to run a restaurant with his mother to work with him at Alex’s Fresh Kitchen.
Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out her children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”
Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.