gmhTODAY Summer 2022 | Page 52

Cochi s Kitchen Feeds Morgan Hill

By Jordan Rosenfeld Photos by Mike Sanchez & Cochi ' s Kitchen

Hungry Morgan Hill residents will have a new dining ex perience this summer , when Cochi ’ s Kitchen opens its doors in the Vineyard Town Center . Owner and chef Emanuel “ Manny ” Vasquez and his wife Gabrielle Crescini are bringing a farm-to-table , grab-and-go dining experience with a fresh daily salad bar and savory meats that draws upon Vasquez ’ s signature BBQ . They ’ ll be partnering with many local vendors , as well , so customers can expect fresh scones from A Sconed Woman ; fresh , organic bread made by Matriarch Bread Company ; coffee from Morgan Hill-born Original Roasters ; Roxane ’ s Biscotti ; produce from Spade and Plough , and more .

“ The idea is that there ’ s room for everyone , and somebody helped us once upon a time , so we want to help as many people as we can ,” says Gabrielle .
Many people may already be familiar with Manny ’ s locally famous “ chicken sandos ” which he sold out of a food truck during the last couple years , featuring buttermilk fried chicken with special sauce , and later a cheesesteak sandwich . The food truck was his answer to the unceremonious pause of his catering career when the pandemic shut down in-person dining .
Gabrielle reminisces about the way the community turned out for his food truck based on word-of-mouth alone through social media , “ We ’ d have lines of 100 people waiting to buy the sandwiches .”
Manny ’ s talent is proof that not every skill must be learned in a classroom . A self-taught man , who refined his techniques as a chef by working numerous cooking jobs , his real culinary education originates in his grandmother ’ s kitchen .
“ She was always teaching me things , which opened up my palate , and then I started learning technique on the job ,” he says .
Though Cochi ’ s Kitchen is new to Morgan Hill , Manny is not . He and Gabrielle moved here in 2015 with their two children and wholeheartedly embraced the community . Manny is a big fan of beer , frequenting the Running Shop and Hops and Kelley Brewing Company , to name a few .
After years of working in commercial flooring , Vasquez was ready for a change . He drew on his childhood love of cooking and got a job working for the Hilton hotel as a line cook . His proficient skills spirited him to lead cook within three months . He also cooked at a pizza place in Milpitas , a job he describes as one of his favorite to date . His determination and talent continued to gain him recognition and he eventually moved on to cook in the cafes of Kaiser Permanente and Google .
The problem was : these jobs had little to no upward mobility . Vasquez decided to try a little freelance catering on the side . He invested in a BBQ truck and began to cater jobs . As is his pattern , people were quickly impressed with the quality and flavor of his cooking , and small catering jobs became big ones , some with over 350 people for a variety of different businesses . Before long , Vasquez was working for himself , successfully catering hundreds of people every day of the week .
And then , COVID-19 struck .
“ He was literally stopped on a dime like everyone else ,” says Gabrielle , who is also his partner in the business .
The food truck resurrected his career , but Vasquez had a bigger vision . “ He ’ s always wanted a brick and mortar place ,” Gabrielle says .
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