As the Houston area’s foreign-born population continues to grow, diversify and participate in the regional economy, more and more Venezuelan families have found their new home and businesses in the Katy area. Venezuelans are one of the fastest-growing groups in the Greater Houston area, more than tripling in the first seven years of this decade. Venezuela used to be one of the most desirable destinations for immigrants from all over the world, but during the last 25 years it has only seen an increase in political persecution and economic devastation. However, they may have found the perfect refuge for their families and businesses because Venezuelans value the same faith, family, education, security and strong work ethic that many Katy residents do.
Among these recent immigrants, is the Vielma family who worked hard to create a chain of Venezuelan cafes called “El Kourmet”. El Kourmet has been making a name for itself by making the “arepa” one of the most famous and popular new meals in town. What started twenty-two years ago in the city of Merida, Venezuela, as the initiative of a boy with an entrepreneurial spirit, has become the most locally recognized brands of tropical food from a country that was once known for having one of the biggest oil reserves and most beautiful women on the planet (with 21 titles in international beauty pageants).
Our new neighbors came with a clear vision, but it took thirteen years for them to see the success that they are seeing right now. From their first food-truck that opened in 2015 to the creation of an “Arepa Bar” inside a local famous market in Katy, and finally the opening of two successful locations in the form of full restaurants (North and South of the city); the Vielma family never gave up. Jose Vielma, founder and leader of the project is always moving and working like an ant. Vielma works very hard to ensure that the quality of his ingredients and customer service are the very best.
“If you haven’t tried this Venezuelan food you are missing out”, commented a new American customer after having tasted for the first time the “patacon” (a sandwich that instead of bread is made with crushed fried yellow plantain, filled with a special stew of meat or chicken, as well as a special white cheese from Venezuela and seasoned with avocado and mouth-watering unique sauces). Another differentiator of the El Kourmet brand is to make the “hamburger bigger than normal; loading it with so many new rich ingredients like egg, ham and a very “unique white Venezuelan cheese that we grill”, explains Vielma.
Being able to enter a market as competitive as that of the United States and to be able to give strength to their brand is the result of perseverance, faith, dedication, and hard work that must happen every day. Only through increasing the quality of their products and customer service have they managed to distance themselves from the competition. Nevertheless, as a man of faith and action, Vielma acknowledges God as the way maker and looks ahead with the dream of one day turning his business into a franchise.