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Armando Soto, Executive Chef · Tex Tubb's Taco Palace

Chef Armando's culinary education began in Mexico, and has continued over nearly a decade at Food Fight. The Mexico City native studied cooking at the Instituto Polit├ęcnico Nacional. "IPN, we call it," says Armando. "I didn't finish, but I started." That start was enough to give him a foothold in the business; after coming to Madison, Armando worked at a couple of local establishments with another chef who mentored him. "He taught me so much," Armando says, gratefully. "The most important things he taught me were proper cooking temperatures, how to get along with and understand the servers and other kitchen staff...(He) gave me books, he taught me in Spanish. Another (mentor) encouraged me to study, to learn English, to keep progressing in my goals." When the chef who taught him came over to Food Fight, he brought Armando with him...and his career has taken off and grown more fulfilling. "I really, really like when the guests leave happy, and what gives me passion is when it's my food and they say it's perfect," he says. "When someone says, 'Armando, I ate such and such and it was amazing,' it lights me up." But what really fulfills Armando is family. "I have three kids and love to spend time with them," he says. "I pick them up from school, go to the movies, then grab something to eat. I like to be with my family. It's all about my family. "My youth was not wonderful," adds Armando. "My parents did not have the money to help me study like I wanted to. Now, I'm in the U.S. and can make a difference for my own kids."