A friendship forged in the food world over a decade ago has blossomed into an innovative and successful catering company that plans and designs upscale events around San Diego County.
The MIHO Experience has traveled a long way from its original, successful run as a food truck business. It has firmly planted itself as a creative design and planning company that seeks to bring families and friends together to eat, drink and be merry.
Founders Kevin Ho and Juan Mirón, who first met working in a North Park restaurant called The Linkery in 2008, have been running MIHO Experience since 2010.
Ho is the company’s CEO while Mirón is CPO – or chief purpose officer — in charge of making decisions that align with the company’s beliefs and mission.
The name of the business is a combination of the first two letters of the co-founders’ last names.
MIHO Experience’s early efforts were on wheels, with Ho and Mirón creating fresh food and serving it from a 1984-built food truck that the two would park around different parts of San Diego County.
The “MIHO Gastrotruck,” which Mirón said cost the company about $12,000, was a welcome sight in local neighborhoods. It won several awards for serving some of the best “street food.”
Literally and figuratively, from the start, Ho said, “It’s been a fun ride,” but he acknowledges that there’s much more to come. Ho is the second of two sons born to Chinese immigrants who fled to Taiwan in the 1970s to get away from Communist rule. After initially landing in Kansas, his parents moved to California. They bought a home in La Mesa, had children, and owned and operated their own furniture store, San Diego Rattan & Leather in Mira Mesa.
Ho graduated from Grossmont High School in 2003 and attended UC Berkeley, earning a degree in molecular and cellular biology and religious studies in 2007. “They told me for years they didn’t want me to be an entrepreneur,” Ho said. “I think I kind of did that reverse psychology thing. They convinced me to do it.”
After college, when he worked at The Linkery, one of the first “farm-to-table” concept dining establishments in San Diego, Ho met Mirón.
Mirón is a 1998 graduate of St. Augustine who studied international business at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
Mirón and his wife would host “underground” supper clubs several times a year at their home, which drew Ho and many others to dine. The food typically consisted of several courses of curated, elaborate fare paired with craft beer.
Mirón said that in 2009, he was out of town in Palm Springs, poolside, reading a magazine that described the food truck boom that was happening in other cities.
“I thought, ‘This is cool, we can do it!’” Mirón said. “I told Kevin and he said, ‘This is cool. I’m down.’”
Soon after, they left The Linkery and put their efforts into the gastrotruck. But over the next several years, Mirón and Ho decided to go in another direction.
By 2012, they transformed MIHO Experience into a catering company. Later they added a liquor license, and eventually the company moved into more full-service event planning in 2014.
“In the early days, it was a lot of learning,” Ho said. “There was a lot of trial and error. Catering has a really long learning curve.”
Mirón said the company has grown in a “natural progression.” As it was stretching its coverage area beyond San Diego into Palm Springs, Joshua Tree and beyond, he said there were times when the company catered six events in one day.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, Mirón said the two “stepped back and really assessed our direction,” looking to focus on elevating themselves “in every aspect — in service, quality and execution.”
The company peaked with 150 employees in 2018, but the pandemic had a major effect on the business.
“Looking for new perspectives and creating new goals,” Ho said, MIHO Experience now has 25 employees.
MIHO Experience employees abide by a mantra called the “HOMI Code.” HOMI combines the founders’ last names a different way, pushing the idea that those who work as colleagues at MIHO Experience are considered “homies” or friends.
Among other things, the code implores employees to nurture their whole self; be honest; welcome diversity; be passionate about food, drink and service; and embrace collaboration.
Ho said he is encouraged by what he sees for the company’s future. “We haven’t hit our prime yet, we still have a lot to prove.”