Lorraine Salazar and her brother Karl are 3rd generation partners of Sal’s Mexican Restaurants, “A Valley Tradition Since 1942.” The family business was started by their father Sal who wanted a better life for his family than he could provide working in the fields picking peaches.
From a young age, Lorraine learned the basics—and the hard work—of operating a small business working alongside her father and grandparents preparing her grandmother’s signature recipes in the kitchen, sweeping the floors and working the cook line preparing orders for the restaurant guests.
Her father also taught her to value higher education, something denied to him because he worked in the fields and started Sal’s Place when he was just 17. He encouraged Lorraine to pursue her studies and she graduated from UCLA (Class 1982), expecting to continue on to law school. Her father’s illness and death intervened and she returned to help manage the family business.
Celebrating 80 years in business in 2022, Sal’s employed 150 dedicated team members in three restaurants before the Coronavirus crisis. Lorraine’s son Aaron, and Karl’s two oldest sons, Sal and Roman and daughter Karly, are also active in the business.
Lorraine’s passion for the culinary history of Mexican cuisine led her to pursue yearly travels to various states in Mexico learning to cook the specialty foods of that region from local chefs and home cooks. She is proud to have trained with acclaimed chefs Rick Bayless (Oaxaca, Veracuz, Mexico City); Diane Kennedy (Michoacan); Susana Trilling, (Oaxaca); Patricia Quintana (Mexico City and Puebla); and both Roberto Santibanez and Ricardo Munoz Zurita (Mexico City, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Yucatan, Campeche, Guanajuato and Morelos). Seasonal menu items are inspired by her travels.
Lorraine and Karl are the recipients of the 2017 California Faces of Diversity by the California Restaurant Association. Lorraine was named “California Restaurant Association Fresno Chapter Restaurateur of the Year” in April 2011 and March 2018. The Madera Hispanic Chamber in 1997 named her “Business Woman of the Year.” Sal’s Mexican Restaurants received the 2001 California Small Business Award and is recipient of numerous California Restaurant Association “Best of the Valley” and Fresno Bee “People’s Choice” awards.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Lorraine to The California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley in 2005. She served as co-convener of The Partnership’s Higher Education and Workforce Development Group. Former Fresno Mayor Lee Brand appointed her to his Mayoral Transition Team in 2016 and she served as co-chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee. In 2017, she was appointed to serve on the Foundation Board of Governors for California State University, Fresno. She is humbled to be honored as one of the Top 10 Professional Women for 2022 by the Marjoree Mason Center.
Lorraine is a Past Chairperson of the California Restaurant Association (CRA) State Board. She served as past Chairperson of the CRA Political Action Committee and a board member of both the California and Fresno Restaurant Associations for over 20 years. Lorraine served as the 2015 Chairwoman for the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce and as the Chair of the Chamber PAC. As a spokesperson for CRA and the National Federation of Independent Business, Lorraine advocates on behalf of small business concerns in both Sacramento and Washington D.C.
Lorraine’s varied interests include culinary and wine travel, relaxing on any beach, attending concerts, movies, professional sports and especially, enjoying time with her husband Tom, and three grandsons, Ethan, Tyler and Landon.