Orioles fans know Tippy Martinez could pitch, but can he cook? The former Orioles reliever opened his Cantina de Camden this week on Eutaw Street at Camden Yards. He has teamed up with Chef Garcia, an authentic Mexican food manufacturer, to create the menu, which includes a nacho platter, burrito Martinez, bean burritos, soft tacos and chicken fajita burritos. Martinez lives in Towson with his wife and two children. The Sun's Jason LaCanfora spoke with him about his new venture.
Q: What have you been up to since your playing days?
A: I've been doing a lot. I coached at Towson State for three years as a volunteer. Then, I did some some baseball camps. Right now, I have five baseball camps, and I want to cut back. It kind of chops my summer up. Then, things lit up as far as the food business. I had to negotiate with Camden Yards, but finally I think it's all going to work. We've got the materials. The stand is up, we just have to work out some other things. All of the food is made from my mother's recipes. I've been learning about business, too. It's important for me to be knowledgeable about that now.
Q: What gave you the idea for the stand?
A: The reason I'm doing it is to let people out East know what authentic Mexican food tastes like. Chef Garcia is from Mexico, and he was already doing retail stuff. We have the same dream, for people out East to taste authentic food. We started talking about it, with him making my food and me showing him how. He's from a different family, and every family cooks differently. Our food has a different taste than a Chi-Chi's or Taco Bell. The food we prepare has more of a bite to it. A lot of people like that; some don't. But, there's a market for people who like it and have been out West and tasted authentic food. The tacos at Taco Bell are pretty good, but the other stuff is suffering. The sauces are not authentic. They're more additives than anything else. We use more original ingredients and recipes. The recipes are my mother's. She taught me how to cook the food. A distributor liked her recipe for salsa and chili verde, and we hope to market that wholesale nationally. We will sell ingredients to restaurants and stuff like that. Hopefully, we could go retail, too.
Q: Did you miss being around the ballpark?
A: I think so. The times when I do go to the ballpark, though, to just watch a game, I sometimes get preoccupied. But if I'm busy and doing something constructive, like with the Mexican food, I'll enjoy that. I've watched Boog [Powell], and it looked like a lot of fun what he was doing. I'm a people person, and Boog is a people person. Part of the ballpark is part of me. I'm still an Oriole. The fans are great. They remember me. I do whatever I can possibly do for them. I enjoy talking to people. I may be siging autographs or whatever. It's fun for me to be back on the scene. The people loved the food when we had it at Memorial Stadium when the Bowie Baysox played there. They asked when they could get it in stores, and we built the business up one step at a time.