Hello, my name is Juan Helmstedt. My love for chorizo started when I was very young in the Basque country of northern Spain. When I was eight years old my mother sent me to spend my summer vacation at my Aunt (‘Tía’) Paquita’s farm in the little town of Ciriano (or ‘Ziriano’) on the outskirts of the city of Vitoria, to get me off the streets of Madrid and “become a man”.
Everybody there had to work so I became the official shepherd of the farm, taking care of nine cows and several pigs. Those pigs were treated like kings, eating the best food, even leftovers and scraps from our plates. This was done in order to obtain the best possible tasting meat for Saint Martin’s Day, a traditional day celebrated there for slaughtering pigs. The combination of that pork and Tía Paquita’s ingredients passed on to her from previous generations, made the BEST tasting chorizo I had ever had.
Being an immigrant in America was a challenging experience for me. The language barrier was very difficult especially at first and I truly missed having my family and friends around. But, I knew I could not live without the food I grew up with. So, in order to bring back the comfort of home and recreate the happiness I had experienced as a child on my aunt’s farm, I decided that chorizo was going to be a part of my new life in Wisconsin.
I did not have to search too far to find my neighbor and future business partner, “John Salchert”, the owner of the famous “Bernie’s” butcher shop in Port Washington. He was a great person to work with in the initial stages of this journey because he was very patient with me until we were able to create a pretty good version of the real thing. John produced chorizo for my new American family for years and I am forever grateful to him for that.
The chorizo I was making was a total hit with my family and friends. Soon after, I started receiving so many orders for chorizo from people that I began thinking of starting my own sausage company. That summer, while fishing with my good friend Edgar Perez from Guatemala, we decided to start our own chorizo company together. The first thing I did was to spend many hours on the phone talking to my Aunt Paquita as well as other relatives and friends in Spain, in order to create the truly best home-style chorizo I could.
When we thought about what we would name our company, the name ‘Tía Paquita’, came to us naturally. I know she probably shed a few tears of joy when I sent her a Christmas card with our new company logo featuring her name on it.