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Miguel Hernandez Cooks up Success

Miguel Hernandez Cooks up Success

How lessons from a family-owned Mexican restaurant are helping Miguel Hernandez find success as general counsel at Henry Company

Photo by Ana Ochoa
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After more than twenty years in his industry, Miguel Hernandez is exactly where he wants to be. The respected lawyer and current general counsel reports directly to the CEO of Henry and is using his expertise to manage risk, form business partnerships, and influence strategy at the leading building products manufacturer. He was educated at Loyola Law School, trained at top LA firms, and named a Southern California Rising Star by Super Lawyers—but Hernandez learned the most important lessons about life and business from his parents. 

In the late 1970s, Hernandez’s mother, Teresita, started selling menudo out of their house in East Los Angeles. He remembers watching as her loyal customers passed popular burrito stands and other nearby options to line up for this traditional Mexican soup. When the burrito stand around the corner went up for sale, Teresita used her modest profit to buy it. By 1983, the Hernandez family had established a full-service Mexican restaurant: Teresita’s Restaurant. 

Authentic recipes that originated in her native Teúl de Gonzalez Ortega made Teresita’s a local hotspot that attracted local politicians, police chiefs, and celebrity regulars like actress and former Revlon model Lauren Hutton. Over the years, most members of the family, including Hernandez himself, have worked there. He started bussing tables at age eight and later became a dishwasher, prep cook, and manager. 

Hernandez says the experience helped him develop firsthand knowledge and skills about running a business that you can’t learn in textbooks. “My mom managed and motivated her staff every day in her attempt to provide quality meals and a memorable experience. Working in a family-owned restaurant with parents, siblings, and family showed me how to work in a fast-paced environment, collaborate, communicate, and problem solve, all while creating the right customer experience,” Hernandez explains. “Those are important skills for every business, no matter the size.”  

“I saw becoming a lawyer as a way to combine my intellect with my desire to impact the world and give back like my parents raised me to do.”

Miguel Hernandez

The life lessons came from both parents. His father poured himself into a demanding factory job to provide for his family. They viewed Teresita’s Restaurant as a way to provide opportunity and stability for the family while contributing to the community by creating jobs, scholarships and through other philanthropic endeavors. Through the years, the family and restaurant have received many accolades and distinctions for their work and contributions. Recognition has come in many forms, including hosting a breakfast and campaign event for business titan Mike Bloomberg during his 2020 bid for the United States presidency. 

When they weren’t cooking up platillos tradicionales, the Hernandez family was out in the community. “My parents pushed education, culture, and our Mexican heritage as much as they did hard work,” Hernandez recalls. He and his siblings all went to private school and learned to play instruments. On weekends, Teresita took Hernandez and his siblings to perform impromptu recitals at local senior centers. Afterwards, they spent time getting to know the residents over pastries from the restaurant.   

Hernandez studied political science and classical music. Upon graduation, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. and spent a year teaching music and ESL to at-risk youth in Brooklyn, New York. Eventually, he decided to go to law school. “I saw becoming a lawyer as a way to combine my intellect with my desire to impact the world and give back like my parents raised me to do,” he says. “And I knew that would make them proud.” 

Working for demanding partners at big law firms helped Hernandez deepen his legal expertise and sharpen his people skills. When a minority counsel program that paired inside and outside lawyers connected him to Bank of America, the bank became his first major client. Suddenly, Hernandez was seen as someone who could win substantial business. He was on his way. 

In 2013, Hernandez joined Henry as a director of product liability. Because he grew up helping his father with repairs at home and at the restaurant, the transition to a building materials company was an easy one. Hernandez also has a personal history with the Henry brand, which he used with his father while making these very repairs. His time at Teresita’s also taught him how to engage with politicians, celebrity guests, and blue-collar line cooks. “I use my life experience to interact with all levels of workers, groups, leaders, and managers in every sector from the janitor to the CEO,” he says. 

Over the past nine years, Hernandez has broadened his responsibilities. As general counsel, his responsibilities have grown to include managing all litigation, transactional matters, warranty, compliance, and risk management. In 2021, Henry was acquired by Carlisle Companies. Hernandez helped lead the sale process, which culminated in a successful merger. He is now working with his counterparts across the organization to manage a complex integration. 

The acquisition has Henry poised for continued success in 2022, and while Hernandez is excited about growing the business and driving returns for shareholders, he hasn’t forgotten his passion for helping others. In recent years, a priest who often visits Teresita’s introduced him to Soledad Enrichment Action, a gang reduction and youth development program for at-risk kids in Los Angeles. Hernandez is on the organization’s board of directors.

Things have changed at the restaurant. Teresita, who is approaching her ninetieth birthday, is enjoying retirement. Although she has turned over day-to-day operations to her eldest son, she often visits to prep daily specials, serve dishes, and greet customers who have become lifelong friends. Her husband continues to help maintain the building, and together, they still have a lot of wisdom to impart. That’s good for Hernandez, who says his sons will soon be ready to welcome and serve the next generation of customers. “It’s a tradition now,” he says. “And I know my sons will learn the same lessons I did and continue my parents’ legacy.” 

Congratulations, Miguel Hernandez, for the well-deserved recognition from Hispanic ExecutiveDarger Errante Yavitz & Blau LLP is proud of its long-standing partnership with Miguel and the Henry Company. DEYB is an award-winning litigation firm in New York City that has been recognized repeatedly as a leader in its field. 

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