Man Vs Machine


So, I think we can all agree that machines are sometimes better and faster than humans. I've been witness to this reality since I was a kid and my dad would talk to me about his job as an engineer at a CCC (Commercial Contracting Corporation) all the way back to the early '80s. A few times, he was able to show me some of the robots he had been in charge to install or performing maintenance. Robots move faster and more accurately than we as humans can, especially handling metals and heavy objects.


How do the dynamics of using robotics in the food industry work for us at Cueva Bar?

Think about the tortillas we use at Cueva Bar, both the corn and the flour. The corn tortillas are way faster to produce even with the most rustic tools like a tortilla press, but when we get in the wheat flour tortillas world, the game changes. Flour tortillas are pressed using a roll and they are made one by one. At least that's how I learned to make them, and that's how pretty much every mom, abuela or cook makes them.

Our empanadas start in a similar way. We use a tortilla roller, not a pastry roller, to press our tortillas. The trick is to make them round and at the desired thickness. To have size control we must have portion control which starts when portioning the testales. Testales are the dough balls we flatten out by hand, before using the wooden roll to press them into a circle. After the empanada tortilla is rolled, we use our fingers and not a tool in order to stuff them, close them, and pinch them. This process takes time and I believe it adds that personal touch and energy into the food that makes our empanadas taste good. What I am trying to say is that our empanadas aren't mass-produced.

The recipe is easy when you apply it's all about the numbers game.

Take a look at this video then continue reading for my closing. Fast forward to 1:54


So let's be honest. There are a couple of empanada shops around San Diego that are dedicated to making all things empanadas and they say their empanadas are made by hand. That's an argument that's close to reality, but not fully. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a machine to get part of the process done. It's just important to note that even my skills of rolling tortillas partly by hand (because I use a roller) can't and won't ever be able to compete with a machine like the one in the video above. I can roll two tortillas per minute, and that is if the testales are already partially pressed.

The argument is that making empanadas by hand is not cost-effective and I cannot compete with Empanada Kitchen's business model, especially when they just moved a few blocks down the road on El Cajon Boulevard.


The future of Cueva Bar's empanadas baked to order is at risk my friends unless we figure out a way to open up shop with the use of a machine to press them, as well as a machine to close and pinch them. Will you like to partner up to give Empanada Kitchen and Paraná a run for their money? I am talking about pushing empanadas around town like is the latest fashion that doesn't go out of style take over. If so, you know where to find me.

Cueva Bar is my approach to the concept of Tapas with an essence of Mexican cuisine, known for continuous reinvention and embracing evolution, where food is prepared in a cosy, relaxed and inclusive atmosphere without the white table cloth element, just a purely human relationship fostered by those who dine in the all are welcomed University Heights neighbourhood gem.

Letting the inspiration flow and keeping balance in mind, Chef Oz marries Mexico’s ingredients and flavours with elements from around the U.S and the world using local-organic produce and vendors to produce both delicious and healthy dishes that have little to zero impact on our environment.

Cueva Bar in San Diego California offers a fusion tapas inspired menu with plenty of omnivores, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.

Our happy hour is from Tuesday to Saturday from 4 pm to 6 pm. Happy hour offerings are $2 off all food on the menu and $3 off all drinks by the glass.


The team:

Jo: Co-founder/Corporate.

Oz: Co-founder/Executive Chef.

Mel: Sous Chef.

FOH: Ghaidan

BOH: Patty, Nick


About the author:

I chef Oz write these blogs. I am a home cook gone pro when my wife Jo and I decided to open Cueva Bar, a fusion tapas bar and restaurant in San Diego California. I am passionate about offering a space where people gather for a good time, and to enjoy mindfully prepared tapas, made with love and passion by our culinary team. I'm all about inclusive peace, love, mutual respect, unity, kindness, and compassion under the sun with liberty and justice for all.

Let tapas bring us together!

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TEL 619-269-6612

2123 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116

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