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Franklin teen teams with family to open restaurant

Miguel Suarez, owner of Louis Desert Grill on Bluemound Road in Waukesha, shows off his new restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner service.

Miguel Suarez, owner of Louis Desert Grill on Bluemound Road in Waukesha, shows off his new restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner service. Photo By Todd Ponath

Sept. 6, 2011

Franklin - When Miguel Suarez graduated from high school in June, he didn't go out to some big party or have some big celebration.

He had other plans. He had to go to work.

"After graduation everyone went to their parties, and I had to come and start working," Suarez said.

Working on your graduation night? When you're the owner, such is life.

No, that's not a misprint. Suarez is a restaurant owner at 18 years old.

He just graduated from Franklin High School three months ago. Before he finished his last high school exam and could take off his cap and gown, he was preparing for an entrepreneurship most set out at an older age.

He attended financial meetings, reviewed floor plans and considered every last possible detail - design of the menu, the brand of the napkins, the set up of the restaurant and more - before Louis Desert Grill, a new southwest style restaurant in Waukesha, opened June 30.

Big responsibilities were thrust onto the soft-spoken teenager. But Suarez was not complaining. And why would he? Suarez was doing something he was passionate about and as the leader of the operation, he was ready to take the job head on.

"I'm always looking for challenges," Suarez said.

College in the plans

Owning a restaurant at such a young age could be a challenge alone, but the challenge appears to be greater for Suarez, given the fact that he is also enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for the upcoming fall semester.

Not a problem, says Suarez, who plans on studying business management.

He said most of his classes end by 1 p.m. and then he plans on traveling back to the restaurant to work for the remainder of the day.

Suarez added he doesn't know how everything will work out, but said he won't neglect his priorities.

"If I have a test to prepare for, obviously that comes first," he said. "But I'm always going to be here. If I have a test and it's very busy here, I'm going to manage it. I don't know how, but I'm going to because that's what I've always done in my life."

Suarez had practice at this as he was a manager at a local pizza parlor when he was 16 years old.

"Even during high school I was always a working man," Suarez said. "I follow a schedule for myself to do daily. I set myself a schedule and follow it by minute."

'A true family affair'

Nonetheless, he hasn't been alone since the restaurant opened. With all of his family members involved in the restaurant, Suarez literally has his entire family backing him up.

"We're all a group," Suarez said. "We're united in everything. We all support each other and everyone had a part. It's a true family affair."

His brothers, Adrian (head chef) and Luis Jr. (chef) work in the kitchen; his sister, Claudia, 24, helps at the bar; his two younger sisters, Dioselina, 17, and Carla, 14, who both attend Franklin High School, help as waitresses and hostesses; Marina, his mom, makes the salsas; Betty Miranda, Miguel's aunt, creates the deserts; Jacinlo Miranda, his uncle, also works in the kitchen; and his brother-in-law, Chris Reyes, helps Miguel with finances.

However, Miguel gives most of the credit to one family member: his father, Luis Suarez, who the restaurant is named after and who is well-recognized in the Illinois restaurant business.

"My father has been a chef for 30 plus years opening up restaurants for other people, and then we sat down and said, 'We need a restaurant,' " Suarez said.

Watching his father in action when he was younger spurred Miguel's interest to stay in the family business.

"When I was 6 years old I would go in the kitchen and would love seeing him work," Miguel said.

Luis worked with the famous Bartolotta chain restaurants in Chicago and then the family moved to Wisconsin almost 10 years ago.

Miguel said his father isn't at the restaurant as often because of other obligations opening other restaurants in the area, but his passion for the business was felt by many.

"My father worked as a chef and he taught me how to cook when I was little," said Adrian, 25, who has been a big help to Miguel at the restaurant. "He passed that on and it was very interesting for me."

And with the whole family also here, they don't spend too much time apart.

"It's pretty funny because we go home and see everybody," Adrian said. "We come here and everybody's here. So it's good. Sometimes it's a little tense because you see everyone 24/7.

"You're with your family but also you take care of everybody. You know everybody's fine. It's very fun to work with your family, plus we dedicate more and we care about the people since everybody is family and working to make it one of the best in Waukesha."

Everything at the restaurant is from family recipes, which range from enchiladas, chalupas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, a seafood section and a full meat section that includes grilled rib eye steak, smoked pork tenderloin, ribs, brisket and pull pork (a customer favorite according to Miguel). They are slow roasted and smoked tender for 12 hours.

Miguel said the food is not spicy and added the variety of styles at one location was one of the family's goals.

"We wanted to bring something different to the table on this side of town," Miguel said.

A voice for everyone

Going forward, Miguel wants to see the restaurant carve out a niche in Waukesha and see it grow as a franchise type.

Although he is in charge, Miguel lets everyone have a voice.

"If (my younger sister) has a great idea we let her speak," Miguel said. "She might be younger, but she can have a great idea. My mother, she has amazing ideas. We let everyone speak."

Adrian echoed those thoughts and praised his brother for his leadership.

"It's a work of the whole family and we give him the big responsibility to be in the front of the house," Adrian said. "It's easier for him because he has a great kitchen. He doesn't have to worry about the kitchen.

"He's learning, he's doing good. Let's hope he keeps it up. Everybody's happy when you see someone going in the right direction."

At a Glance

What: Louis Desert Grill

Where: N7-W23825 Bluemound Road, Waukesha

Hours: Breakfast, Lunch (Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Dinner (Monday - Sunday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Options: Southwest Style Cuisine

Who: Miguel Suarez, 18, owner

Contact: (262) 542-0300

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