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Still Cooking: Echo Hotel Chef the Same for Most of Its 50 Years

Still Cooking: Echo Hotel Chef the Same for Most of Its 50 Years

Jared Janes | The Monitor, McAllen, Texas

EDINBURG – The crafty hand that prepares the food at the Echo Hotel has been unchanged for most of the hotel’s 50 years in existence.

In that time, only the $1.75 price of the Sunday buffet has changed, joked Arnold Yanez as he finished another day in the kitchen. Yanez, the chef who prepares meals for hotel functions and the daily lunch crowd, is a fixture at the Edinburg landmark at 1903 S. Closner Blvd.

Yanez, 77, who lived much of his life in Mexico and has little formal education, said he learned everything about cooking at the Echo.

“Whatever I know, I learned on the job,” he said. “I don’t know any other business.”

The Echo Hotel, built by a group of citizens in 1959 as the Edinburg Community Hotel, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

A handful of its employees, including Dolia Gonzalez, the mother of Edinburg war hero Freddy Gonzalez, have been there for decades.

But none has worked there longer than Yanez, who left the employment of a McAllen hotel to join the Echo on the advice of a friend in 1962, three years after it opened.

He worked as a cook in pastries, the bakery and other areas for eight years before he was named chef, a title he has held for almost 40 years.

He said he’s fortunate to have worked at a job where he got to meet Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Harland Sanders.