Mariam El Haj and Angela El Haj are the co-founders of Anaheim’s Calaca Mamas Cantina, which celebrates the sisters’ deep-rooted love for Mexican food and culture. “With Spanish being the second-most spoken language in Southern California, we created Calaca Mamas to honor the tradition of Mexican culture and create authentic dishes while infusing it with fun elements of the unexpected.” Learn about Mariam El Haj and Angela El Haj…
Hometown: Orange County, California
First jobs: Both of our first jobs were at our family’s IHOP restaurants.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in CA: We both love events and live music but also enjoy spending time with our families and traveling.
The biggest obstacles you overcame: I believe the biggest obstacle and hardship we have faced and are still trying to thrive through is COVID and its intense effects of it on our industry.
Someone who inspires you both and why: There is a rather large number of people who inspire us, light a spark in us, and make us both to be better, bigger, stronger versions of our best selves. A few extremely close to us is our father, who despite every single obstacle and adversity, he was able to surpass them all and succeed against all odds. Another is a close family friend’s mother, Nancy, who devoted and led her life so selflessly for everyone she loved and helped so many needy people without ever sacrificing her family who she adored.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Value your employees as much as you value your bottom line and buy smart, not cheap.
Favorite quotes: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” –-Winston Churchill
“Just keep swimming.” –Dory from Disney’s Finding Nemo
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: Angela loves and has long tormented me (Mariam) with scary movies since I was little–I still don’t like them. Also, the meaning of our restaurant name, Calaca Mamas, comes from ‘Calaca’ meaning ‘sugar skull,’ which is an iconic representation of Day of the Dead celebrations. We are also both proud mothers, so when choosing a name for their restaurant, we wanted to honor that aspect of our lives with ‘Mamas.’
What makes someone fabulous: Someone’s ability to be kind, positive and to keep going when facing tremendous adversity is what makes someone fabulous.