ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Armando Murillo had a dream to become an accomplished chef. That dream led him on a journey that would take him around the United States working as a corporate chef.
The money was good and Murillo was doing what he loved, but he realized he was missing out on those he loved.
“The next thing I noticed is my daughter was 6 years old and then I noticed she was 15,” Murillo said. “She told me ‘Hey dad you’re never home. You’re always gone. You always go for six months, come home for two or three weeks, and then you’re gone again.’ I was missing all her events so I decided to retire and then that’s when I opened this store.”
Murillo opened Chef Armando Culinary Apparel in January 2020. The store, located at 6001 San Mateo NE, suite E2, in the Fiesta del Norte Shopping Center, is the first-of-its-kind for Chef Works culinary apparel.
“I was able to finally get a hold of the owner of Chef Works, which is a well-known brand that all the professional chefs, all the cooks know, that everybody wants to wear because they’re current, they’re functional, and it’s everything that everybody wants,” Murillo explained. “So when I reached out to them it took some negotiation, and I finally convinced them. So, I’m so proud to announce that this is the first Chef Works store that’s a stand-alone store in the United States and we have it here in Albuquerque.”
Murillo’s more than two decades of culinary experience played a part in convincing Chef Works founder and owner Dale Gross to allow the store to open. Murillo’s store’s main brand is Chef Works, but he has also branched out to offer other culinary apparel brands such as the popular French label Bragard and Shoes For Crews, which is a well-made, well-known shoe brand. He can also order specialty knives, cooking utensils and cookware.
As with many businesses, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on Murillo’s store. Murillo is holding on by a thread and has taken a second job at Walmart to help sustain his store and provide for his family.
“When I opened the store in January (2020) I was so excited,” he said. “I’m still excited. I haven’t lost faith, so I always have to learn or do things differently. Go out and reach out to more, and hold on to those dollars a little bit longer and make them stretch a little bit more to keep this place up because I know it’s successful. Not as a money thing, but successful for our community. I want this for our community to be successful because I know there’s no place like this in Albuquerque and I know all the chefs, all the home cooks, all the people out there. They like this and they want this. I just want them to have choices.”
Murillo has enjoyed meeting and developing friendships with local chefs, those in the restaurant and hospitality industry as well as people who enjoy cooking at home. His Facebook page is filled with photos of customers who have stopped in for culinary apparel and supplies. His page can be found by searching “Chef Armando Culinary Apparel.”
“I just love people,” he said. “I just like the smile of them when they pick something out and they put it on. It’s just so exciting. It just sends a good feeling. And you know, with all these things we’re going through, all these things, they start to add up for me.”
Murillo understands people can shop online, but emphasizes people will not get the better prices or the experience his store offers. He is able to fulfill large orders and can ship anywhere. He can also have apparel embroidered for a more personal touch. Murillo can be reached directly by calling 575-586-3123 or visit him at the store from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. More information on his background and store can be found at albuquerqueculinaryapparel.com.
“I can do everything a big company does, but I’m more personal,” Murillo said. “You can come see me. We can talk. We can meet instead of doing everything over the phone. I just kind of break the cycle of people ordering online, going directly to Chef Works or whoever they want to, and come to me and I could take care of them and I could give them a better price. They could try it on, touch it and feel it. This is so much more. … It just makes things so much exciting and you can take home exactly what you came for.”