Working up to 16 hours a day, six days a week, may seem like a nightmare to most business operators, but to Humberto Raygoza it is the realization of a dream coming true. This fast-rising star in the highly competitive Southern California world of making chorizo is rapidly announcing his presence and his products to a growing audience.
Known as The Chori-Man, the Antelope Valley native, now 35, opened a shop last July in San Pedro under The Chori-Man shingle. But he’s actually been associated with the product since the age of five.
“My family was from the Zacatecas area of Southern Mexico and my father’s side had all been butchers for generations,” he explains. “My mother’s side of the family worked in poultry. They made a unique type of chorizo there and every summer I would go there and help in some way; cleaning chilies, mixing spices or doing whatever was needed. They had been doing it for generations and I helped out for about a month each summer. Back home in Antelope Valley, my father would make chorizo in our kitchen and the whole family would get involved making it and linking it for my father’s local customers.
“I was going to UCLA and was studying nursing and grew tired of being a broke student. It was then that I decided to earn some extra money by making chorizo in my apartment. I worked as a line cook and sold everything I had and called my father for the family chorizo recipe. I began making about 50 lbs. every three months and sold it door to door. I had a small cart and two 25-lb. coolers.
“I told my customers about my family’s tradition and that I’m a fourth-generation chorizo maker, bringing my family’s traditional recipes from Mexico to the streets of LA.”
Raygoza says he hand-made his chorizo in the morning using a labor-intensive process but true to his ancestral roots. When he returned from work he spent the evenings peddling his meats from house to house.
“When I told my father I had quit school and wanted to make and sell chorizo, he told me he thought I was crazy and that it was unlikely to work,” he recalls.
At times when all his product didn’t sell, he would give it to restaurants and local breweries to try. “They loved it,” Raygoza says. “They even gave me space in their restaurants to make my chorizo and carried it on their menus. They enjoyed the products so much that I essentially traded some of my labor and spices for a place to make it.”