167: Christian Ethridge (Taco Circus)

Christian Ethridge on Innovation City

“There’s so many days that can just roll on, with the work, with the day to day toiling. But the real thing is pushing yourself.” – Christian Ethridge

Welcome to Season 3 of Innovation City, a podcast featuring innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Cafe is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Christian Ethridge, Chef and Owner at Taco Circus. Taco Circus is a “fundamental taqueria” in St. Louis, serving up authentic Austin-style Mexican street food. Christian worked his way up in the food industry, starting as a dishwasher, and still gets his hands dirty when a job needs to be done. In this episode, Christian sits down with the team to discuss his entrepreneurial journey, economic mobility for his team, making Taco Circus more than your average “margarita mill,” and much more!

They discuss:

  • Christian’s super power: perseverance
    • Even if it means cleaning a clogged drain
  • How Christian got into cooking and the restaurant industry
    • He had a criminal history
    • Got a job washing dishes, had nowhere else to go
    • Worked his way up
    • Found a place for himself in the restaurant industry
    • Felt like this (taco place) was what he could offer St. Louis
  • Considers himself lucky to be part of people’s lives
  • He doesn’t allow negativity in the kitchen
  • Pays his employees as much as he can
    • Christian believes in paying a living wage
    • He’s seen people work two jobs and put in 80 hours a week, but not be able to afford a house or a decent car
  • He lives for his employees and his kids
  • He was a “tagger” (graffiti writer) in his teens, a time he considers a very creative period of his life
  • Taco Circus is a fundamental taqueria
    • They make their own spice blends
    • At its core, it’s a fundamental Mexican restaurant
    • Fresh ingredients
    • Fast, fresh, healthy“ish” food
  • The smartest restaurants understand where they fit in
  • Christian had a bad experience working for someone else
    • This led him to open his own place
  • He didn’t want to open just another “margarita mill”
  • How the entrepreneurial journey has empowered him
  • Willie Nelson is Taco Circus’ spiritual leader
    • He’s kind of a caricature in some ways, but he’s really a jazz guitarist
    • Christian has probably been to 100 Willie Nelson shows
  • Connect with Christian: @TacoCircus on Instagram, Facebook, also @ChristianEthridge on Instagram

Lightning Round:

  1. What was one of the kindest things someone has ever done for you?
    • Believed in me, at face value
  2. Where have you found peace?
    • I’ll let you know when I find it.
  3. What did you learn from your biggest regret?
    • I’m still dealing with this.
  4. What do you spend too much time doing?
    • Worrying.
  5. What would you ask a fortune teller?
    • Nothing. I wouldn’t want to know.
  6. What does success look like to you?
    • Economic freedom for those around us
  7. What is your perfect day?
    • Traveling with a bunch of people I hold near and dear. Making memories.