Couple find new calling in Mexican fortune cookie
June 14, 2008
One night over
dinner at P.F. Chang's last year, Raul Montaņo came up with the idea of a
Mexican fortune cookie.
The reaction he got from the rest of the table wasn't exactly encouraging.
"Everybody laughed," he recalls. "Then, they didn't think we'd go through with
They didn't know what kind of drive and perseverance pushes Montaņo and his
wife, Marina. Dichos, cinnamon-flavored wafers that contain a slip of paper with
a Mexican saying, began appearing in Arizona restaurants this year.
Marina was the one responsible for shifting the concept from fortunes to
dichos, or familiar sayings in Spanish.
"You hear them all day," she says. "I thought, well, we put that in the cookie,
and that's what you call them. It was one of those 'a-ha!' moments."
That was probably the easiest part of the whole adventure. The two didn't have
any experience in the cookie business. Raul owns Border Mart, a convenience
store in Douglas. Marina previously worked in a photo studio.
After coming up with the concept, however, the two did their homework. Some of
it was tasty; for instance, perfecting the recipe for the cookie, which
resembles a taco and tastes a bit like a churo.
"I started playing around with fortune-cookie recipes," Marina says. "My parents
tried them out for us, but we were really secretive about it."
"Because we thought, 'This could be a really bad idea,' " she says with a laugh.
"This could just really bomb. Who wants that?"
It wasn't cheap, either. Raul went to Boston twice to purchase two machines to
make the taco-shaped cookies. Each machine will whip up 1,500 cookies an hour.
Then come the Dichos themselves. They are printed in Florida by a specialty
company that uses edible ink.
"It's the kind of thing you don't think of until you make something like this,"
Marina says with a sigh. "There are little surprises along the way."
Perhaps the most dismaying moment occurred when they learned that they were not
the first people to come up with a concept spun off a Mexican fortune cookie.
"We found out somebody else had done it about 10 years ago," Raul says. "The guy
never made it work, but that freaked me out. I had gotten the machines. I had
spent all this money. It was scary."
Thankfully, a patent attorney gave them the go-ahead, which soothed the Montaņos'
nerves. Production started this year, but there's still the matter of
The cookies are sold via dichosonline.com. They also are available in several
restaurants in Douglas and southwestern Arizona and are branching into Los
Angeles. U.S. Foodservice puts them in Arizona restaurants, such as San Felipe's
Cantina at the Tempe Marketplace.
"They've been very positively received," says Rosa Flores, business development
manager with the Phoenix division of U.S. Foodservice. "We've had several
reorders and are seeing them sell not just to Latino locations, but to little
bistros and cafes as well."
Raul has seen a variety of places stocking the cookie.
"You've got all these taquito stands selling them, and then we had a deal with
the Desert Diamond Casino (in Tucson)," he says. "It's all over the map."
The Montaņos know what they'd like to see: Dichos becoming as common as fortune
cookies and being served around the country.
"It's been a hell of a ride, but we've learned a lot," Raul says. "We're staying
on course: Our goal is to have as many Mexican restaurants as possible across
the U.S. have these."