ENCINITAS, Calif. — In every family business, there comes a time to pass the torch. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Encinitas to visit Q'ero Restaurant where enjoying a meal is much like hanging out in the home of Monica Szepesy.
"Oh hello,"' said Monica to her customers while serving hot food to their table. "Well, alright, everybody got a little bit of salad?" asked Monica.
Twenty years ago, she opened the restaurant, and her heart, in hopes of bringing her Peruvian dream to America.
"Time to pass the torch?" I asked.
Monica replied, "Yes. [It's] time to pass the torch. It's exciting."
Two decades ago, Monica's son Niko followed her to work. Now, it's time for him to take over.
"I've been here my entire life," said Niko Szepesy-Ortega.
Niko grew up washing the dishes, stocking the pantry and learning the family recipes.
"You feeling the pressure?" I asked.
Niko said, "A little, but we have a good team."
When you go from being the baby to boss, it helps to have a secret weapon, and that would be Carmen Szepesy.
"I do the empanadas. I do everything. They ask me to do it," said Carmen.
Just like every chef has a favorite recipe, every grandmother has their favorite grandson.
"Niko is my grandson," said Carmen. "I am so proud of him. He is doing so good. He is very smart."
Carmen has agreed to not only stay at the restaurant and help, but also share her secrets with Niko.
"She is more [than] willing to share them with him. Let's be honest," said Monica.
Meanwhile, Monica is off to Cusco, Peru where her mother was born. It'll be Niko's chance to serve the food and stand shoulde- to-shoulder with his grandmother, rolling up three generations of empanada love.
As for his mother Monica, it's time to travel.
"When a pop star finishes, they drop the mic. What are you dropping?" I asked.
Monica said, "I'll have to drop a ladle I guess."
Q'ero is celebrating its 20th Anniversary on Valentines Day.