Tag Archives: Miami

Viva la Gusto!

October 12, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Roberto W. Meireles left Cuba when he was 14 years old. After years working as an engineer in Florida, he eventually found himself in charge of Omaha’s only Cuban restaurant, Gusto Cuban Café.

Meireles’ journey to eventually owning and running a restaurant with his wife, Ana Barajas De Meireles, is a story of a man from the Caribbean falling in love with the city of Omaha.

Meireles first learned of Omaha through the coupons he found in Reader’s Digest while he was a child living in Aguada de Pasajeros, Cuba. Before the magazine ceased to be available to Cuban residents, Meireles would pore through the magazine and fill out all the coupons in hopes of having something sent back to him.

“That was the only thing I knew about Omaha,” Meireles says. “That it had Mutual of Omaha.”

His 1966 escape from Cuba separated Meireles from his parents. He lived with an uncle in Miami while working and attending school.

Meireles made his true connections with Omaha in adulthood, after meeting a Nebraskan couple on a cruise. Luis and Connie Canal first approached Meireles when they heard him speaking Spanish, and throughout the course of the cruise, they became very close—to the point that they continued to visit Meireles and his ex-wife in Florida. On each visit, Luis and Connie would invite them to come see what Omaha had to offer.  

“In 2004, we came in December. I had never seen snow before, and I wanted to see snow,” Meireles says.

He was so impressed with the city that he purchased a home so he could visit during the winter. After his divorce, Meireles moved all his belongings to Omaha late in 2006 to take up permanent residence in his winter vacation house. Retiring from his engineering job after 25 years in the industry, Meireles set out to open a Cuban restaurant.

“I wanted to live in Omaha because I didn’t want to stay in Miami anymore.” Meireles says. “When I found this, I found paradise.”

He praises the Midwest’s climate and the dire need of Cuban cuisine in Omaha. He emphasizes the stark difference between Cuban food and other Latin American foods—Cuban food does not feature tortillas, and the primary meat is pork as opposed to chicken or beef.

For several months Meireles’ routine consisted of waking up early in the morning to work on the restaurant and working at his other job late into the evening. After more than half a year of work, Gusto Cuban Café opened its doors Oct. 18, 2007.

What truly sets Gusto Cuban Café aside from the typical restaurant is the effort that Meireles and Barajas De Meireles have poured into it. Nearly everything in the restaurant has been crafted or repaired by the Meireleses. They even built all the furniture bearing the restaurant’s logo.

“We are jacks of all trades. Whatever needs to be done, wherever I need to be is where I’m at.” Barajas De Meireles says. “I go anywhere from waiting tables, being the cook, bartending, or whatever is necessary.”

Another unique aspect Meireles brings to the restaurant scene is his refusal to use recipes. Instead, he measures ingredients by eye, preparing food the way his family did.

Barajas De Meireles, who met Meireles through Gusto Cuban Café, works as a nurse during the day and, after her shifts, rushes to Gusto Cuban to help with the evening operations.

“My wife is basically the same way as me. She likes this craziness, that is why we have so much in common.” Meireles says.

The couple makes it clear that running the restaurant is an all-hands-on-deck operation, and they lend their success to their loyal customer base and desire to solve issues themselves.

“Sometimes I sit here inside of the restaurant and look at everything and think, ‘I can’t believe I did all this.’” Meireles says.

Visit gustocubancafe.com for more information.

This article published in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Terence Herrick

October 2, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up, Terence Herrick figured he could make a difference in the world with a badge and a gun. Turns out he might do the most good with a microphone and podcast.

A one-time police officer for the City of Bellevue, Herrick is the originator of Police Academy Podcast, which encompasses a website, podcast, YouTube channel, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

At the heart of each post is an in-depth conversation about controversial police issues in the U.S. And there’s been plenty to talk about: the shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and of other black men in Minnesota and Louisiana; the shooting of five Dallas police officers; riots and rallies.

terenceherrick1It is an atmosphere Herrick calls “dismal.”

“It is discouraging to see how many powerful and influential people and organizations are willing to mislead the people of our country for whatever agenda they have,” Herrick says. “It is discouraging to see that those people and those groups are willing to literally get people killed to promote their agenda.”

That said, he is “hopeful because I do believe that most people—I think the majority of people out there—realize everything is not what it seems and are looking for the truth.”

They can find the truth, he says, at Police Academy Podcast.

The idea to start the podcast came while Herrick was spending “umpteen hours a day” driving for his job with MSI Consultants, a Colorado company that provides risk mitigation services to lenders for construction projects. Herrick had joined the company in the fall of 2015 with the idea he might one day take it over. He left behind five years with the Bellevue Police Department to do so.

“It is discouraging to see how many powerful and influential people and organizations are willing to mislead the people of our country for whatever agenda they have.”

-Terence Herrick

Before long, though, he knew the switch wasn’t working.

“I just realized that I personally cannot go to work every day if what I do isn’t literally changing someone’s life,” says the Gretna native. “That’s just the way I’m wired. To run a business that is about construction and banking risk mitigation isn’t something I can do for the next 30 years. No matter how much money I make, I would never be happy doing that.”

His Police Academy episodes are rant-free. “Just the facts,” as Sgt. Joe Friday might say, delivered in Herrick’s steady, even-keeled voice. There’s a classroom feel to it, as when he’s giving a detailed explanation for why Officer Darren Wilson’s gun didn’t fire during his struggle with Brown in Ferguson, demonstrating hands-on with a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson M&P pistol.

Herrick’s first podcast was posted in April, a five-part series about Ferguson. Herrick will often post raw police footage and then offer play-by-play analysis. He provided such analysis of when police pepper-sprayed an 84-year-old woman in Oklahoma, and he used the same strategy to examine police shootings of Charles Kinsey (the therapist for an autistic man in Miami) and the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Though podcasts were his initial focus, his YouTube channel now generates more traffic. A show discussing the Chicago Police shooting of Paul O’Neal in July had 19,000-plus views.

He laughs when asked whether his show is pro-police or pro-citizens.

“That should be the question everyone asks when they consume any content: What is the slant of this creator? I do not defend the police. And I try not to support any narrative.

“My goal is…the truth.”

Visit policeacademypodcast.com for more information.

Q&A: Jason Decker

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Elite Landscaping

As a kid, Omahan Jason Decker was known as the neighborhood yard boy. Today, as owner of Elite Landscaping, he still spends most of his days working outdoors, creating and installing beautiful landscapes and outdoor entertaining spaces for homeowners. “I can’t picture myself doing anything other than this.”

Q: When did you first discover your love for working in the outdoors? How did you get your start in landscaping?

A: Growing up in Armbrust Acres, I mowed 15 yards a week all through grade school and made good money for a young kid. At 15, I started working for a local lawn and landscape contractor. While I worked for my old boss, I read many books on landscaping and learned trial by fire. My parents were always my guinea pigs. They were my first pond, patio, landscape design, fire pit, lighting job, etc. School was never my thing. I just loved being outside, the hard work, seeing the fruits of my labor, and interacting with people.7_BackyardFirepit_Web

Q: What education and training do you have in landscape design? Who were your mentors?

A: I graduated from Millard North High School in 2001 and then attended Metro Community College for one-and-a-half years, taking classes in advanced landscape design and plant knowledge. For the most part, I am self-taught. My mentors were definitely my father, Bob, and mother, Rose, who instilled in me great ethics and morals and taught me at a young age that hard work pays off. My mom continues to support me in my business as the company’s office manager.

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Q: What kind of projects does Elite Landscaping take on? Who are your customers?

A: Our main area of work is in outdoor patio and pool projects. We are the main installer for Lumbermen’s high-end clients, and Bell Pools and New Wave Pools are great companies we work well with, referring business to each other. I do all my own landscape project work—meeting with each client, designing and bidding each job, then watching over the job site through completion. We only do around 15-20 projects a summer, and we continually keep in touch with clients, keeping their properties in peak shape with maintenance annuals, potting, and service work, etc. My customers are generally very hard-working professionals—small business owners, doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, executives for local businesses. They love their homes and yards and want them to be one-of-a-kind retreats where they can spend time relaxing and getting away from the rigors of work and enjoying family time. Ninety percent of my work is referral-based, while a few jobs are generated by my website and my exhibit at the Omaha Home Show.IMG_8731_DxO_Web

Q: What part of landscaping do you enjoy the most? What inspires your designs?

A: The most creative and enjoyable part is the design process—I’ve come up with some very unique and challenging designs, and I have a great team of guys who are very skilled and able to execute our designs well. Traveling is what inspires me! I travel about every six weeks, and at least once a year out of the country—Rio de Janeiro, Thailand, Mexico, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Miami, Las Vegas…It gives me something to look forward to, and it refreshes the mind and body.

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Q: How do you enjoy your spare time?

Spending it with my girlfriend, Christie. She is the first woman who’s ever been able to get me away from work in the summer, our busiest time of year. We enjoy going to movies, sitting on the outdoor patio with friends for drinks, and dining out at Pitch Pizzeria, J’s on Jackson, M’s Pub, Roja, among others. We also like going downtown, and the Benson area is always fun. I also like to golf or just hang out with my bulldog, Diesel, and watch sporting events.

For a photo gallery of past projects or more info on Elite Landscaping, visit elitelandscapingomaha.com.