Part of Adrian Loza’s love of cooking stemmed from an unlikely source – his dislike of Fresno Unified School District student lunches.
“He was always a really picky eater,” said Loza’s sister, Bianca Loza. “Sometimes he didn’t even like my mom’s cooking. He told me that was one of the reasons he learned to cook was so he could make what he wants for himself.”
Mr. Loza spent most of his life helping out his mother, Belén Ramírez, in her El Premio Mayor restaurants and food truck. But on Jan. 23, he died after being struck by a train while jogging near his home in southern Fresno County. He was 29.
Bianca Loza said her brother was training for a Tough Mudder event in March. It had rained a lot the few days prior, so she believes her brother was running on the train tracks to keep dry and from injuring himself by falling. He had run a similar route every day for the three weeks leading up to the accident.
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“He loved running,” she said. “He ran cross country in high school, and he was really good at it.”
She continued: “He had started to get back into it lately. He always liked to exercise. He used to say ‘I need to balance it out, man – the cooking and the exercising.’ ”
Mr. Loza was about 14 or 15 years old when his mother first bought the El Premio Mayor taco truck. As the oldest, he helped out in the kitchen more than his younger siblings, who filled sodas and took orders.
As he got older, he began to cook more at the family’s two brick-and-mortar locations. His sister said the truck was used less and less, until customers began to ask El Premio Mayor to cater or work events.
Mr. Loza embraced the opportunity to get out in the community and meet people while doing what he loved: cooking.
“He became the face of our restaurant,” Bianca Loza said.
He was so fun to be around. He just connected with you.
Bianca Loza on her brother, Adrian
This was never more true than in August, when Mr. Loza’s truck beat out 22 competitors in both the judges’ vote and a popular vote at the Fresno Grizzlies’ Taco Truck Throwdown. The event set a Grizzlies attendance record of nearly 17,000.
Mike Osegueda helped coordinate the throwdown and worked with Mr. Loza on several food truck events throughout Fresno.
“He was pretty easygoing,” Osegueda said. “He never wanted to complain. He appreciated everything given to him.”
Osegueda said Mr. Loza was a major part of the weekly food truck nights at Gazebo Gardens, as well as at community events like the reopening of Storyland and monthly ArtHops.
Gazebo Gardens will host a special food truck night on Feb. 6 – three days after Mr. Loza would have turned 30 – to raise money for his family and celebrate his life. Seven trucks had signed up for the event as of Jan. 29. The Grizzlies will also sell special T-shirts to benefit the family.
“One of the reasons I wanted to do a benefit was I knew he was the kind of guy who would step up and immediately do that for someone else,” Osegueda said.
Club Legends, a bar located next door to one of El Premio Mayor’s restaurants, will also host an event in Mr. Loza’s honor on Tuesday.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to pay for expenses.
Mr. Loza’s family has learned just how many people he touched in the days since his death.
“Wherever he was, he made so many friends,” Bianca Loza said. “But we’re shocked. There were so many affected by his death.”
His many friends will say goodbye to Mr. Loza at a funeral Monday in a fitting way – by wearing superhero or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” T-shirts.
“He loved cartoons and was a big kid at heart,” Bianca Loza said. “Everyone has a picture with him in a ‘Ninja Turtles’ sweater. We all just loved him so much.”
Born: Feb. 3, 1986
Died: Jan. 23, 2016
Survived by: Mother Belén Ramírez; sisters Biana Loza, Noemi Loza
Funeral: Feb. 1, 10:30 a.m., Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church
Food truck benefit:
Where: Gazebo Gardens, 3204 N. Van Ness Blvd., Fresno
When: Feb. 6, 5-9 p.m.