Joshua Kochanek learned to cook at a young age from his mom and grandma in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was born and raised. Kochanek went on to cook everywhere from casinos to high-end restaurants. After shutting down his own catering company in New England due to the pandemic, he rented a small spot from his uncle in Capitola, where he opened LittleKoe’s, an homage to his childhood nickname.
Kochanek uses shells made from radish, turnip or beet instead of a tortilla, which makes his root vegetable tacos the most unique in town—fillings include ahi, teriyaki chicken and kale citrus salad. His hand-mixed-to-order burgers, infused with spices and seasonings, are instant hits—customers must sign a waiver to eat the spicy Hell’s Burger. Kochanek recently detailed his culinary journey and the inspiration behind his distinctive tacos.
How did you end up becoming a chef?
JOSHUA KOCHANEK: When I was a kid watching my mom and grandma cook, I told them that one day I would open my own food shop. Being in fine dining on the East Coast, I excelled and was often told I was the top employee in the kitchen, but I was also told I would never be an executive chef because I didn’t have a college education. I was inspired to prove everybody wrong, and when my uncle gave me an opportunity to start LittleKoe’s, I jumped at it. It’s been a blessing to come out here, serve my food and not be told that I’ll never be an executive chef.
How were your taco shells conceived?
My wife and I used to love tacos, so when she developed a corn allergy, I was inspired to create a different kind of taco shell from shaved root vegetables. They ended up turning out really good, better in some ways in that they don’t fall apart like a traditional taco and retain their texture and crunch with every bite from start to finish. And they are also gluten-free and vegan.
LittleKoe’s Beach Bites, 115 San Jose Ave., Capitola, 401-617-9378; littlekoesbeachbites.wordpress.com.