Summary

In this installment of The Bentonville Beacon, James Bell hosts Chef Rafael Rios, Founder and CEO of Yeyo’s. Yeyo’s stands out as a celebrated culinary enterprise in Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas, acclaimed for its authentic Mexican cuisine and dedication to sustainable farming practices. This journey began with the Rios Family Farm and one of Bentonville’s first food trucks, eventually expanding into multiple venues, including a restaurant in Bentonville’s 8th Street Market and a mezcaleria in downtown Rogers. Yeyo’s is distinguished by its farm-to-table approach, using fresh ingredients from the family’s farms to craft flavorful and traditional Mexican dishes. Chef Rios has been recognized as a multi-time James Beard Semifinalist, underscoring Yeyo’s exceptional culinary quality and innovation. This prestigious acknowledgment places Yeyo’s among America’s top culinary experiences, highlighting its commitment to excellence and deep-rooted passion for Mexican food culture. During the discussion, Rafael shares how his familial heritage has shaped Yeyo’s approach to cuisine, how he blends his roots with the local culture and how Yeyo’s remains true to its farm-to-table philosophy while providing distinct experiences at each of its establishments.

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Show Notes

Timestamps in this blog are for the audio-only version of the podcast; video timing differs.

(0:54) Introduction to Chef Rafael Rios

(4:04) Rafael’s Journey to Becoming a Restaurateur

(10:23) Multi-time James Beard Award Semifinalist

(12:59) Passion for the Farm-to-Table Philosophy

(19:32) Key Factors Leading to Yeyo’s Growth

(20:41) Breaking News: Unveiling Casa Magnolia in Springdale and a Fayetteville Food Truck

(24:39) Each Yeyo’s Location Offers a Unique Experience

(29:47) Happiness is What Brings People to Bentonville

(33:44) Rafael’s #BecauseBentonville Story

(35:56) Blending Rafael’s Mexican Roots with Local Culture

(39:12) The Spiritual Connection of Corn and Mexican Cuisine

(41:51) Advice to Aspiring Culinary Entrepreneurs

(43:41) Closing Questions 

Links

James Bell

Bentonville Economic Development

Rafael Rios

Yeyo’s

Rios Family Farm

Yeyo’s Food Truck

Yeyo’s El Alma de Mexico

Yeyo’s Mezcaleria y Taqueria

Quotes

“We have the ability and the capability of changing the culinary scene in our region…We are resilient. We know what we want, and our team embraces that. Our family embraces that. We work harder now…it allows us to fulfill a certain level of obligation that we now have with our community, the Latino community specifically, to empower them and let them know that we’re here and that we can do a lot of things if we do it from the heart.” – Chef Rafael Rios, (11:24)

“[Family] matters to what I consider a vital element to a healthy community. So what is it that you are truly doing with your business, and how is it seen by the community? Is it a sustainable business? But the most important thing is the added value to a meal and how it connects with the soil and Northwest Arkansas…everything is tied up to an experience at the end of the day. So we focus on what the experience is going to be.” – Chef Rafael Rios, (18:21)

“There is love for community, which is one of the biggest things that drove me to live [in Bentonville]. There is kindness throughout. There are opportunities…Living in Bentonville is a culmination of what our story was initially intended to be. We were looking for a place where we can be ourselves and we can be happy, a place where we can have opportunities to grow. Our kids can have good schools to go to, and the overall quality of life is amazing…So the overall thing is happiness. Happiness is what brings people to Bentonville.” – Chef Rafael Rios, (30:01)

Yeyo’s Next Chapter: Farm Fresh to Culinary Ventures with Chef Rafael Rios

In this installment of The Bentonville Beacon, James Bell hosts Chef Rafael Rios, Founder and CEO of Yeyo’s. Yeyo’s stands out as a celebrated culinary enterprise in Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas, acclaimed for its authentic Mexican cuisine and dedication to sustainable farming practices. This journey began with the Rios Family Farm and one of Bentonville’s first food trucks, eventually expanding into multiple venues, including a restaurant in Bentonville’s 8th Street Market and a mezcaleria in downtown Rogers. Yeyo’s is distinguished by its farm-to-table approach, using fresh ingredients from the family’s farms to craft flavorful and traditional Mexican dishes. Chef Rios has been recognized as a multi-time James Beard Semifinalist, underscoring Yeyo’s exceptional culinary quality and innovation. This prestigious acknowledgment places Yeyo’s among America’s top culinary experiences, highlighting its commitment to excellence and deep-rooted passion for Mexican food culture. During the discussion, Rafael shares how his familial heritage has shaped Yeyo’s approach to cuisine, how he blends his roots with the local culture and how Yeyo’s remains true to its farm-to-table philosophy while providing distinct experiences at each of its establishments.

Community and Cuisine

Following their move from California to Northwest Arkansas in search of a better quality of life, Rafael and his family started the Rios Family Farm, distributing its produce to their local church and community. The Rios family saw this as the perfect opportunity for changing the perception of Mexican cuisine, prompting them to start a food truck utilizing the farm-to-table approach and emphasizing sustainability. These principles propelled Yeyo’s transformation from a single food truck to multiple unique locations offering different but authentic experiences.

At the heart of Yeyo’s narrative and methodology is the importance of family and the values they embody. At Yeyo’s the essence of cooking is not only about feeding, but also about cherishing the process and honoring the ingredients’ cultural significance. This philosophy underpins Yeyo’s farm-to-table approach, ensuring that food is not only delectable but rooted in tradition.

“[Family] matters to what I consider a vital element to a healthy community. So what is it that you are truly doing with your business, and how is it seen by the community? Is it a sustainable business? But the most important thing is the added value to a meal and how it connects with the soil and Northwest Arkansas…everything is tied up to an experience at the end of the day. So we focus on what the experience is going to be.” – Chef Rafael Rios, (18:21)

Crafting the Future of Food

Yeyo’s recipe for success is cultivating a food movement that honors heritage while also acting as a beacon of community that encourages culinary innovation. In Rafael’s words, Bentonville is the perfect place for this to happen because the area’s culture and commitment to ingenuity is a culmination of what his family’s story was intended to be. 

As a multi-time James Beard Awards Semifinalist, Rafael finds pride in the accolades that affirm his team’s efforts to reinvent the culinary landscape. And Rafael’s and Yeyo’s dedication to purpose and mission spell out a narrative that continues to shape the culinary identity of Northwest Arkansas and beautifully showcases the diverse and dynamic spirit of the Greater Bentonville Area.

“We have the ability and the capability of changing the culinary scene in our region…We are resilient. We know what we want, and our team embraces that. Our family embraces that. We work harder now…it allows us to fulfill a certain level of obligation that we now have with our community, the Latino community specifically, to empower them and let them know that we’re here and that we can do a lot of things if we do it from the heart.” – Chef Rafael Rios, (11:24)

Get Connected!

Thank you for tuning into this episode of The Bentonville Beacon! Join us weekly for more stories and advice from the entrepreneurs, business executives and community leaders who are sparking the rise of the Greater Bentonville Area. If you are interested in discussing whether your business should have a presence in Greater Bentonville or would like to discuss this podcast, please contact James Bell. You may reach James at jbell@greaterbentonville.com or (479) 273-2841.

Links for Additional Mentions

Bentonville Farmers Market

Food Loops

University of Arkansas

Bentonville, Arkansas

Rogers, Arkansas

Springdale, Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas

8th Street Market

Bike Rack Brewing

Markham & Fitz

Picking on the Square (Fiddlers Club)

RevUnit

Northwest Arkansas

Ozark Mountains

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