El Meson to share its ‘recipe for life’ with Daytonians

This week El Meson has announced plans for the launch of a new video streaming subscription service — “Viva La Vida, A Recipe for Life.”

As restaurants continue to find new ways to connect with customers and pivot given the new realities brought on by COVID-19, El Meson owners felt this would be a new and exciting way to engage with customers.

El Meson’s Managing Partner Bill Castro and his husband, Chef Mark Abbott, began hosting “Friday watch parties” on Facebook at the start of the pandemic to share cocktail and cooking demonstrations of some of El Meson’s favorite dishes.

“This all started when we closed down for 30 days. We were very fearful of the unknown. During this period when my husband Mark and I were home, we talked about how to keep the lights on and how to engage with our customers. Neither one of us are techie. We have our cell phones and knew about Facebook Live and we decided to have a live watch party to show what we do best — entertain and cook. We did four of these virtual events all on Friday nights and all of a sudden we saw people tuning in. People feeling like they were a part of our evening at home,” said Bill Castro, Managing Partner of El Meson. “As we got back into carryout and patio dining, we slowly got away from doing the videos. However, every week we heard from customers saying they really missed the videos. That’s when we decided to team up with Zac Pitts (WDTN) to make an ongoing video subscription service that’s a lot higher quality for our customers near and far to connect, learn, and be entertained by all of the food, wine, and cocktail knowledge we’ve obtained over the last 40 years of travel and cooking.”

The service will launch on Oct. 16, with customers given the opportunity to opt-in early to become “Founding Members” of the service that will include four original pieces of content per month and bonus features like seasonal special and special live stream parties. It will also offer live stream cooking workshops to supplement office holiday parties and other group gatherings this winter that may not be feasible during a pandemic.

With cooler temperatures on the way, Castro believes customers are more hungry than ever for local content that includes cooking and bar demonstrations, table-setting guides, local guests, cultural and historical knowledge of countries around the world, wine tasting notes and other culinary-themed content.

I recently sat down with Castro to hear more about his vision and this upcoming launch to learn more.

Q: Tell me about what you did during your initial watch parties. What did you cook?

On our Facebook page, our original watch parties are still archived so you can see the original videos that inspired this. We would do everything from a recipe we cook at the restaurant to Chinese sweet potato French fries in an air fryer. We would feature fish and how to cook it well. We took hanger steaks and showed how you can do a grill party at home. Mark was making bundt cakes — blueberry and mango — and a bourbon cake. It wasn’t about El Meson, it was about the recipe of life.

Q: What is the vision of Viva La Vida — why did you name it that and what do you hope it accomplishes?

We have an opportunity — all of us, all of us within this pandemic — to freeze and lock down and regress or look at it as a springboard to look for opportunity. We need to reinvent and what better way to access you and yourself virtually when everything around us is virtual and virtually is the next best way to share each other. People are also looking for the positive and the good things, we have too much negativity and the virtual aspect is a way for us to share beyond zip codes. Viva is to live and Vida is life — celebrating culture and living life well. This is something that will help offer some of the recipes of life. This is to inspire people. To get people involved and get creative. Cooking should be part of that sharing.

Q: Tell us about Zac Pitts? What made you decide to team up with him?

Zac is the host of Living Dayton. He’s been doing TV and is the host and I’ve always admired him. Zac has had 15 years into anchoring the news and being a reporter in front of the camera. Now he is behind the camera and Mark and I can use his experience and creativity to make something really special.

Q: Will the pricing stay at $24.99 a month? Will it just be video content or will it include anything else over the course of a year?

Signing up as a founding member before Oct. 16 will give customers full access to the four featured monthly classes and experiences and the archived content as well as the premium subscription service featuring seasonal and monthly live Zoom presentations and cooking classes. After Oct. 16 to get the weekly experiences and the special features it will be $34.99.

Going forward this will be the only way to access digital content or virtual cooking classes that El Meson is doing including special holiday cooking segments.

Q: What will the videos be like? How long will they be and do you have some more specific examples of what you will be covering in the first month or two?

I think we’re going to do what we’re cooking and where we’re cooking — the food and the destination. The elements are going to be what inspires us at this point. Hot soups, steaks, vegetarian, traditional like the enchiladas which show a new way to make them that you’ve probably never seen. They run about 40-45 minutes each. Some will be interactive. It will vary from week to week.

Q: Where do you hope this leads and will ultimately mean to the growth and future of El Meson?

The number one thing is evolution. When El Meson started 42 years ago selling pizza and subs in a blue collar community we were a very different business than we were today. Changing has to be paramount in any situation. Institutions may not need to change or evolve, but at one time or another as new generations come through sometimes change needs to be made very quickly to be soluble, marketable and attainable. We are connected with the whole globe now. In 42 years, we are not the same as when we started and before there’s a gap, before there’s a need, before there’s a shortfall we want to transition. When someone says what’s your competition, the answer is yourself. By the time you have someone pushing on you, you’ve lost it already. We have a chance with COVID right now to evolve – this is about a reboot, relaunch and reinvention.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Contact Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with your ideas and tips.

How to go

What: El Meson

Where: 903 E. Dixie Drive, West Carrollton

More information: 937-859-8229 or www.elmeson.net

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