TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "I've been getting a paycheck for cooking since I was 14."
Cooking isn't just a living for Mateo Otero.
"Every year since I've been open for these three years I've won best taco."
It's his passion.
"I've won best chef, 2019, 2020."
So when he arrived at his restaurant, 'Rollie's Mexican Patio,' on Saturday and found damage to his door, he was shocked to see it was targeted by thieves.
"I thought one of my employees was there then I realized he was off that morning," Otero said.
"I saw all the broken pieces of the door on the floor, and I just knew someone broke in."
He realized his passion was a target for thieves.
"Well, they stole like every electronic that we had to operate the business."
He filed a report with Tucson Police who told KGUN9 thousands of dollars of equipment were stolen.
Mateo didn't open his restaurant on Saturday.
"That's our busiest day and we had to just close."
Already confronting the challenges of a pandemic, Mateo said his business has, among others, a main goal.
"Just trying to keep everybody employed."
He has a message for the people who broke into his restaurant.
"That's just wrong, you just don't go into a mom-and-pop business, someone that works hard his whole life and steal from them."
While police haven't released information about a suspect, Mateo took matters into his own hands, posting a photo of a man caught on camera, on social media.
He reached out to his customers for information about this case.
"It's all love. I love every single one of you guys, you guys are totally there for me, my family and the whole Rollie's crew."
The feedback was supportive and abundant, shared over a thousand times, he says this event won't stop him from fulfilling his passion.
"This is what I do, and this is what I've been doing all my life."
He says 'Rollie's Mexican Patio' will open again on Monday.