Kitchen classic: Hernandez remembers his roots

Too busy to make dinner every night? Don't want to give your kids fast food? If you live in the Keswick area, chef Juan Hernandez might have a solution for you. From a commercial kitchen tucked away behind his house on Union Mills Road, Hernandez runs a full scale catering operation called La Cucina Classica, offering fully prepared family-sized dinners that can be picked up on your drive home.

"We can do meals for 1, 2, or 3 people up to 1,500," says Hernandez, 52, who comes from some tough circumstances.

Raised in an El Salvadorian orphanage, he emigrated to the United States in 1978 after a relative offered him help finding a restaurant job in Washington, D.C. After working in various restaurants in the nation's capital, Hernandez became a chef for the late UVA multi-millionaire donor Carl Smith, a position that, he says, inspired some personal ambitions of his own.

"If I can break my back for a millionaire," Hernandez recalls thinking, "I can do it for myself."

He launched La Cucina Classica Catering in 1994, soon after he became an American citizen, and now does large events for organizations including PVCC and UVA, as well as weddings and other special events.

After he and his wife raised three daughters, all of whom have finished college and pursued graduate studies, he reflects on his own difficult childhood and the success he's found in a new country.

"If you have a good life, if you and your family are healthy," he asks, "what more do you need?"

Maybe a home-cooked dinner.

Read more on: La Cucina Classica


Awesome story effing inspirational. From an orphanage in El Sal to chef and business owner and beautiful family man. This man is proof America is still the greatest. Would he have been able to make this metamorphasis in any other place? Naw. Why? Cause we gots that capitalism baby! I know some preppy entitled whiner will say he mooched off the system maybe he did but now he is paying it all back and then some. Love it.

Thanks Courteney for the tip. I will definitely stop here on my way home from work. Here's the contact info I found on the web.

La Cucina Classica Catering

601 Union Mills Road Troy, VA 22974
(434) 293-2324

My company contracts La Cucina all the time for catering events.

The food is awesome and Juan and his staff are very professional!

Highly recommend them!!!!

In a strange coincidence, I ate food at a catered reception at PVCC yesterday and I'm sure I recognize Mr. Hernandez's face as the caterer. The food was all delicious.