Robert Vieira found love — and a new cuisine as a chef — when he met his wife, Patty.
They operate P&R Fusion, which features Peruvian and American food. Patty is from Peru, and Robert — who started in the food industry as a teenager — has embraced the recipes of his wife's homeland.
The Vieiras serve customers from a mini-kitchen in a trailer — the food truck concept that has grown so popular in recent years. They set up on Saturday and Sunday at Enzo's Table at Willow and Shepherd avenues in Clovis. Breakfast and lunch are served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Customers like P&R's Peruvian tacos so much that they sometimes sell out before the close of business. A Peruvian salsa created by Vieira is the key ingredient.
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He makes it with aji amarillo, a pepper commonly used in Peruvian cooking. The Peruvian tacos — mini sized and $2 apiece — are made with corn tortillas, cabbage, pico de gallo and chicken cooked in a Peruvian style known as brasa.
Vieira prepares a marinade of mustard, garlic and dark beer, and allows it to soak into the chicken for 24 hours before roasting. The meat is then pulled from the bone.
The Chicharron Sandwich and Lomo Sliders — both Peruvian dishes — also are popular items.
The sandwich ($8) features fried pork tenderloin and sweet yams cut into thin chips and fried. The yams add a crunch to the sandwich, which also is served with pickled onion salad, cilantro and a drizzle of Vieira's Peruvian salsa.
The sliders ($9) feature top sirloin sauteed with a white wine reduction along with red onions, tomatoes and the brasa marinade (with added cumin, oregano and salt).
“The brasa mixture gives the sliders a little extra love,” Vieira said.
He hones his knowledge of Peruvian cooking when he and his family (the Vieiras have two young sons) travel to Peru every winter for about one month.
During that time, he works in a friend's restaurant. What else would he do in Peru? “I cook for a living, man. I'm a chef,” Vieira said.
The American side of P&R's menu includes several burgers, each with an eight-ounce, handmade patty. The burgers are the Cali Classic ($8) with lettuce, tomato and onion; the Royal with Cheese ($9), featuring cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg; and the G Burger ($10) with Swiss cheese, bacon, avocado, chipotle sauce and veggies.
Vieira creates his menu with the goal of developing new offerings to meet the expectations of customers. Without a doubt, he is the master of his mini-kitchen at 23.
He's come far from the days when he washed dishes as a 15-year-old at Palomino's Restaurant in Fresno's Tower District. Paul Palomino was his boss and eventual mentor.
“He showed me the ropes. Prep that. Peel that. I built my way up,” Vieira said.
He attended culinary school but was unable to complete the course. So he returned to working in restaurants to gain more experience and “build up my reputation,” as he said.
His big break came when he was hired to cook at China Peak, the ski resort east of Clovis. Patty Vieira – who had come from Peru on a work and travel visa – also worked there as a cook.
“She's real business-oriented, and I just know how to cook,” he said. As newlyweds, they started P&R Fusion, which at first sold from five different locations in southeast Fresno.
Their menu didn't appeal to customers in that area. So, Vieira said, he “switched things up” by upgrading his mobile unit and choosing to set up at Enzo's Table and at Gazebo Gardens in Fresno. (P&R Fusion is at Gazebo Gardens, at Van Ness Boulevard and Shields Avenue, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.)
The business was doing well until last July when a motorist plowed into Vieira's trailer as he drove to Enzo's Table. The accident caused the trailer to flip over, resulting in serious damage to the mobile kitchen.
P&R Fusion was out of business for six months while Vieira sorted out financial issues and had the trailer repaired. In the meantime, he returned to work with Robert Ortiz III, the executive chef at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo African Adventure.
“He showed me the ropes some more,” Vieira said. “It gave me the time to reorganize myself and come back even stronger. Since we reopened, we've been killing it.”
Jon Dull backed up that assessment on a recent Sunday when he ordered a Royal burger (with egg on top). He said he's willing to try a variety of menu items.
“Everything I've had here is good,” Dull said.
He's not normally a fan of chicken tacos but likes P&R's Peruvian ones. “They know how to do them right,” Dull said.
That's the kind of review that pleases Vieira.
“As long as my customers are happy, and they're enjoying the food, and they come back — that's the biggest thing for me,” he said. “Getting paid is like a bonus.”
P&R Fusion – which also does catering – is on Facebook. The telephone number is (559) 540-0404.