On Saturday, September 5th, ChowNow partnered with HomeState to sponsor one of the most anticipated events of the Los Angeles Summer: Margarita Showdown. This festival aims to reconnect the local community amid coronavirus through exclusive digital performances and hand-delivered Margarita boxes. Can you say, refreshing?
ChowNow’s Social Media Manager Erin Doll sat down with HomeState founder Briana “Breezy” Valdez to learn more about Margarita Showdown’s origin and the Band Taco Program, which connects musicians with cult-favorite restaurant partners like Gracias Madre and Petty Cash.
Erin: Tell us a little bit about the Band Taco Program.
The Band Taco Program was created in 2015 to connect with the community and raise funds for initiatives we found compelling. Our HomeState location in East Hollywood brought in a variety of diners, including artists that quickly became good friends of ours. It was incredibly organic. Britt Daniels from Spoon (a band out of Texas) and Andy our Head of Marketing went to the same venue in Austin back in the day. They’ve
known each other for a long time, so it was natural for him to come to HomeState.
We were providing a breakfast taco plate that he missed—similar to the Migas taco commonly found in Texas. He had asked us a few times to recreate this platter as a taco, so, we came up with this amazing idea: “Why don’t you create your dream taco, name it whatever you want, and we’ll find an initiative or organization that we both want to raise money for and support.” We told him, “However you want to launch the taco and spread awareness—do it.”
He named his taco “The Ranchero” and created a playlist to go along with it. The music played in the restaurant while he signed autographs and the turnout was massive.
I ended up cooking on the lines—probably the first and only time I’ve ever done it because it was so busy. Britt kept looking over and giving a thumbs-up. There was fear in my eyes. But that was the launch of the Band Taco program. It was one of the best turnouts in HomeState history.
The Band Taco program has stayed true to authenticity: meaning all of the collaborations we’ve had over the years have come from authentic fans of Homestate. The program allows us to bring music, tacos, and charity together. Many of the artists we partner with are already authentic fans of HomeState, successful, and well known. But it does bridge communities which is just another great benefit of the program.
Erin: For sure, and it sounds like Margarita Showdown does something very similar. How did you guys come up with the idea for that event?
From 2013 to 2018, we existed without any margaritas. When we opened our Highland Park location, it was the first time we had the opportunity to serve a margarita. It was an important moment for us: we wanted it to be an extension of what already existed. Rather than implement a full bar, we focused on the Paloma. The team wanted to bring awareness to the Margarita; we had seen some inspirational examples of other communal events related to food and beverage. So, we thought “Wouldn’t it be great to create our own festival, highlight the margarita, and bring other margaritas together as an extension of the Band Taco program to raise money?”
Erin: Absolutely. So, how does the Showdown directly impact these charities?
Last year, we sold in-person tickets, which gave access to 6 Margaritas. We had a direct donation table as well, and all of the proceeds went to the charities. This year was really unique. People could purchase tickets at $50 for Margaritas from eight different competitors, a commemorative glass, reusable straw, limes, salt, and a card that tells you where to donate online. We had 350 boxes of Margaritas available for sale, but anyone could join in online and stream the Showdown.
We embedded a button for donations to our two affiliated charities: No Us Without You and the Watts Empowerment Center. We have been working with them for the last few months. The current Band Taco is called “Chicano Batman.” It was so successful we’ve already raised $17,000 in five weeks.
Erin: Oh my gosh!
I know. It’s unbelievable, we are blown away. These organizations can do so much with that money. We are all so inspired and energized by the impact we’ve had. The artists and the restaurants involved have a combined reach of over three million. Even if we only reach 10 percent of that, we have a great opportunity to bring awareness and help raise funds for these orgs.
In addition, we are really excited to have ChowNow matching every dollar up to $10,000—that is massive. That will change people’s lives. Especially right now, when we are all searching for ways to contribute, come together, have fun, and find joy. It feels like everybody wins.
HomeState has selected two charities to be represented in this year’s Margarita Showdown:
No Us Without You will receive half of all profits along with any individual donations made by community contributors. Through No Us Without You, families of four can be fed for up to a week on only $33 of donation. To learn more or donate, check out their website.
The Watts Empowerment Center has been helping Angelenos for nearly 14 years by providing mentorship opportunities, academic courses, school supplies, athletic training, meals for the elderly and underserved communities, and much more. They will receive half of all profits along with any individual donations made by community contributors. To learn more or get involved, check out their website.
“Our mission is sharing experiences and creating memories for people, and we have been cut off from that ability due to Covid. This is a great way to break down the barrier and still have an event where people can share experiences and create memories.”
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Images by Erin Doll | Editing by Terrence Russell