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Chef Maria Mazon is thankful for her Padgett partners: “They’re the heroes behind the taco”

As a head chef and former Top Chef contestant, Maria Mazon is familiar with challenging situations. But when she opened BOCA Tacos y Tequila, Maria faced challenges she’d never experienced before. “I have been a chef for quite a while now, 20-something years, but I got woken up, really quickly, to how hard it is to own a restaurant,” she said. “I became the sole owner of BOCA within a year, and I had no clue what I was doing. I really didn’t. But it’s one of those things that, I was determined to make it work.” 

With 12 years of restaurant ownership now under her belt, Maria has established herself and BOCA Tacos as leaders in the industry. She was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef in the Southwest Region, and BOCA has been featured by the Food Network, New York Times, USA Today, Cooking Channel and Travel Channel. But Maria is especially thankful to have had Padgett Business Services of Tuscon by her side: “I always joke that I’m in business thanks to Linda Parent and Michale Haubert.” 

“They literally taught me how to run a business,” she said. “A milestone for me was when I didn’t owe any back taxes, thanks to Linda, and when I was finally making a profit, like five years after starting. I have stressful days with the restaurant, and I’m opening two more. I believe in the project, as a chef and an owner, but they believe in me as a client. I think I trust them more than I trust myself. Thanks to the show, I’m getting more opportunities to get out there and showcase Mexican cuisine. But they’re the heroes, you know, behind the taco.”  

Born in Tucson, where she now lives and works, but raised in Sonora, Mexico, Maria faced an additional challenge when starting her business. With English as her second language, understanding her business’s taxes and accounting was difficult.  

“Sometimes, I do believe I got lost in translation,” Maria said. It was incredibly important to Maria that her Padgett office has a Spanish speaking employee on staff. “That gave me a sense of security. It’s very important to me to have somebody who will have the patience and the desire to help another human being. Regardless that that is their job, they’re doing it because they want you to succeed at the same time. When I look at the paperwork, written in another language, they actually put it in a way that I can read. They actually try to educate you and help you succeed. It’s like having another me—like a smart me. They were my business school, and honestly, I owe them a lot.” 

“Running a business is no joke,” she said. “When you go to open a business, you have to surround yourself with a good team. If it’s, in my case, a restaurant, you have to surround yourself with good management, good employees, good vendors, and so on, but nobody thinks about that for accounting. I cook for a living. Having somebody in your corner who says, ‘You know what, I got you. You do what you do best, let me do what I do best,’ that’s a match made in heaven.” 

With early mornings and chaotic days in the kitchen, Maria has found the right recipe for her success—including time for herself and her family. “I try to take care of myself, too, as a human being,” she said. “We’re not robots, we forget that part. My wife and son are my everything, and my dogs. I like to go for a walk in the morning with them. I’ve learned the hard way that you need to take care of yourself, and not to worry. It goes back to the fact that because I have a great team behind me, I know that I’m going to be able to do it.” 

When COVID-19 hit the restaurant business hard, Maria leaned on the support of her Padgett team. “They were ready,” she said. “Padgett got as much information as they could and were prepared to help their clients. They go the extra mile.” 

“I want to let people know that when they come to BOCA they don’t just come to support me, as the restaurant owner,” she added. “They’re providing 40-something jobs in the restaurant, plus my accountant, my linens, my purveyors… it’s a good domino effect. And the beauty of it is, in any relationship you have with a company, the relationship has to be cultivated.” 

“Now I know that it’s just not me, I’m not going to succeed just because I’m a great cook. No, I’m going to succeed because I have the right formula, and the right formula involves the right people. We don’t have to agree in life because we’re different people. But what we do have to agree on is that we, both companies, want to succeed. That’s the bottom line. We both go to bed knowing we’re helping each other grow, even though one is an accounting firm and the other a restaurant.” 

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