My Story

I've always been surrounded by great tasting food.  Mom was a magician in the kitchen.  Making some of the best meals ever prepared for her family - Dad and six kids.  As I look back, we didn't appreciate her as much as we do now. And then there are the two Grandmas.  Oy!  Food prepared to perfection every time. The saying is true: Nobody can cook as good as Grandma.

But then there was also food cooking outside on the grill.  While Dad's best was always good, it was his brother Beto who was the King of the Grill.  And of course, the deep pit.

As you see I have been eating incredible food, for as far back as I can remember.  With the flavors imbedded in my taste buds, I wanted to recreate what my Grandmothers used to make.  Oh they are now cooking up their specialties for God, but their flavor inspirations have never ceased to be with us here.  

And after watching Uncle Beto make his specialties on the grill, I began to pick up some of his tricks.  From then on I pushed myself to imitate the flavors created by the grill masters who had inspired me.  I decided to make my own seasoning for carne asada, conveniently all in one bottle. I wouldn't have to get out so many things, forget one, or run out of a particular ingredient.  It didn't take long for me to perfect my carne asada seasoning.

In preparing for a BBQ, I realized I would need a larger cutting board than I already had.  But good quality cutting boards were a little pricey and not big enough.  So I took some scrap white oak and made my own custom cutting board. It worked great.  Soon others wanted me to make them their own custom board, and the Tio Leo's landfill-friendly cutting board was born.

Then came along the Food Network and their coverage of the BBQ festival, known as "Memphis in May."  And my quest was on to make a BBQ pork rub that would put a smile on everyone’s face (along with some BBQ sauce).  It took two years of doing BBQs, cookouts and so on until I felt I perfected my pork dry rub.

Along the way, I also created my fish and seafood seasoning.  I used my favorite Tri-tip rub as a starter, tweaked the ingredients, and made my own steak seasoning.  While in the forest of Siberia my brother-in-law showed me how to make Russian Shashlik (Shish kabob). This stuff was amazing and he showed me everything he did.  And of course my Shashlik seasoning was born right then and there.  Inspired by some baked chicken from a food store giant, my chicken spice came together.

Since then I wanted an all-purpose spice in a couple of heat levels.  That's when I created my Private Reserve Collection.  In Regular (mild), Extra (hot), and Heavy (oy!).  But don't limit yourself, use whatever spice on whatever protein, carb or vegetable you like.  You can even put it on ice cream! (No, it's not a joke, try the carne asada seasoning on chocolate ice cream).

So there you have it, the origin of Tio Leo's Cutting Boards and Seasonings. They are a favorite in many homes.  How about yours?


Tio Leo

Meet The Director and The Shepherd in an up close and personal kind of way.  

Just as soon as we can corral them for interesting and maybe not so interesting trivia tidbits, we'll let you know what we know...

We do know they are always changing and improving things around here.

Mostly just improvising, and imagining (maybe not pretending?) to conduct a famous concerto.

Probably a piece by Mozart.

I grew up in Northern California in a town called Chico. Let's adjust the WABAC Machine..we are quickly on our way in no time at all to when I was introduced into the world of industrial arts, starting the eighth grade at Bidwell Junior High School. The classes that hooked me were wood shop, metal shop, mechanical drawing, and small gas engines.

During the first year of wood shop, we were only allowed to use hand tools. The instructors demonstrated the use of each and every tool as we all made the same project. The following year, power tools came into play and I made several small items including a black walnut coffee table for the house. At the end of the year my project was judged as the best, and I was awarded the Golden Hammer trophy.

Now on to Chico High School wood shop, and what an award-winning program it was. I'll never forget our teacher, Mr. Holt. The man knew all the ins and outs of wood working.

Also on campus was a club called the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), now known as Skills USA. I joined this club and competed in the field of Carpentry. Of the three years going all the way to the State competition, I was the Gold Medalist State Champion every year.

By my senior year, I had arrived. I was now the top dog in the wood shop building. But Mr. Holt put me in my place. The only B grade I received throughout my senior year was early in the semester and only in wood shop. I asked Mr. Holt, “Why? No one else can do what I can do.” Then he asked me, “But are you doing what you can do?” I'll never forget those words. From then on I never settled for good. My work will always be the best! I didn't send one project to the fair that year, I sent two. Still in use by my family, one is a reverse bow front black walnut china hutch, and the other is a grandmother clock which I gave to my Uncle Dave and Aunt Linda.

The hutch not only came back with a First Place ribbon, but also the Grand Award Best in Show of the Industrial Arts exhibit. Two months later we sent the hutch to the California State Fair. The judges wrote that it was flawless, and it appeared in the newspaper showing off its First Place award. Wow! another Gold Medal.

So where has my work been since then? Why haven't you seen my custom wood work at any fairs or exhibitions? Well, let's see.. After 6 Golden Hammer awards and 4 Gold Medals, the last one being from the California State Fair and Exposition, anything else would be like trading down.

But now after many years of construction and custom stair building, I'm back! For several years, I have been showing my work at the Laguna Art-A-Fair, Anaheim Art Crawl Experience (ACE), and Warehouse of Contemporary Art (WOCA).

As with all things, we come full circle through the Time Continuum..and the wood I now use is repurposed, it's all “landfill-friendly.” Go Green!


Leonard J. Duarte

About the Wood

All of our products are landfill-friendly.

All the wood is repurposed – not once or twice, or even three times, but multiple times down to ashes! Assorted wood pieces are rescued from custom staircase and cabinetry shops, and felled trees.

Each piece of wood has been carefully chosen primarily for cutting boards. Then smaller pieces become Pepper Mills, Wine Bottle Stoppers, Pens...the trimmings are used to smoke delicious BBQ (with Tio Leo's Seasonings) for family and friends, down to compostable ash. The ashes are ultimately spread as compost in the garden.

Go Green!

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