Owner – Flores Concepts
By Rodney Campbell
Operating the nation’s longest-running, family-owned Mexican restaurant is more than a point of pride for matriarch Carlotta Flores.
The chef and owner of Flores Concepts and Si Charro! restaurants is continuing the legacy of the original El Charro, which was started by her great aunt, “Tia” Monica Flin, in 1922 and is poised to celebrate a century in business.
Flores is a true culinary icon who was named one of Forbes’ 2021 50 over 50 Women and was featured recently on two nationally syndicated shows: Taste of the Border on Discovery + network, and the 2022 Top Chef: Houston.
“I feel blessed,” Flores said. “El Charro holds so many memories, celebrations, family gatherings, first dates, first jobs. Being able to witness so many milestone events and to play such an important part of not only feeding the stomach but, at times, the soul, is something we don’t take for granted.”
Flores and her team have since opened Charro Steak & Del Rey, Charro Vida, Barrio Charro and The Monica. Her five grandchildren inspired her to branch out beyond traditional El Charro fare.
“They are true foodies and their tastes and dietary needs along with incredible culinary talent like Chef Jenn (Dering) at Charro Vida and Chef Gary (Hickey) at Charro Steak & Del Rey and the vision of my son, Ray, we knew this was what Tucson and our brand was hungry for,” Flores said. “Our community has embraced the new concepts and, for me, it is exciting to do new things at this stage in life.”
James Beard Award Winner Don Guerra, owner and baker at Barrio Bread, teamed with Flores to open Barrio Charro in 2021 – a pairing of two acclaimed creators whose eateries are certified by the UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
“She has been a steadfast pioneer in so many ways,” Guerra said. “As a woman leading one of Arizona’s iconic restaurants, as a Latina chef putting Sonoran cuisine on the map and as a member of the community who never fails to come through for a family in need.”
Flores has more than 400 employees working at her family’s restaurants, airport cafes and catering operations.
“Next to motherhood, this is my greatest responsibility, not only to honor my Tia Monica’s tremendous legacy, but to provide opportunities for growth for my team, a legacy for my grandchildren, and for my community that has been so gracious and enveloping of our history and our food,” she said.