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Tampa meals truck chef elevates Mexican delicacies


TAMPA, Fla. — Chef Rene Valenzuela draws on his heritage to cook elevated Mexican cuisine from his Tampa food truck called Rene’s Mexican Kitchen.

“We’re able to bring different micro-regions from Mexico or different recipes from different epochs of Mexico,” said Valenzuela, 50. “Mexican food is part of the culture and it keeps evolving.”​


What You Need To Know

  • Chef Rene Valenzuela draws on his heritage to cook elevated Mexican cuisine
  • Rene’s Mexican Kitchen located at 4414 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa
  • Open Wed. – Sun., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Valenzuela features specialty tacos and burritos made with more interesting ingredients like octopus, stingray or filet mignon.    

“We’re doing a filet mignon taco. Which is very soft and very tender cut of meat,” he said. “Then we are topping it with a bone marrow chimichurri​.”

Valenzuela was born in Monterrey, Mexico. He moved to Florida in 1996 and began operating a food truck on weekends. 

Valenzuela is best known for being the original founder and owner of Taco Bus. It was one of the first food trucks in Florida to gain national attention.

“We were able to attract the attention and grow that brand while I had it,” he said. “I sold that one about 7 years ago and moved onto different things.” 

Valenzuela planned to open a Mexican steakhouse before nearly being killed in a horrific kitchen fire in 2018. It took him one year to recover and the medical expenses drained his finances. 

With a new lease on life, Valenzuela decided to open Rene’s Mexican Kitchen in November of 2019 and cook food from his ancestors.

​”Under this new concept in which it’s more of a chefy taco… (from) different regions of Mexico doing obscure recipes,” he said. “Now I can move. I have no pain. I can work and support my family.” 

Valenzuela found a permanent home for his food truck at 4414 N Nebraska Ave., in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood. Foodies from all over the Bay Area are drawn to his unique cooking.

“I just had the bone marrow taco and it’s absolutely outrageous. He’s got the right mix of verbaciousness, acid and fatty,” said customer Jason Marlow, 32. “I mean the man’s a warlock. Everything he makes it’s like magical.” 

As Valenzuela builds his new business he’s already planning to expand to a brick-and-mortar building next year but his roots will always be in food trucks.

“This is what I like. I like street. I like cars going by. I like noise,” he said. “I like your friends coming back, parking and you can say ‘hey, how you doing?'” 

Residents said they feel fortunate to have Chef Rene in their backyard.

“The neighborhood is better that he’s here,” said Marlow. “You get that passion in everything that he cooks.”​



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