96: Betty Alatorre de Hong

From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.

Today, the woman working hard to make paleta a household word in metro Phoenix.

Tastemaker 96: Betty Alatorre de Hong

Beatriz (Betty) Alatorre de Hong of Paletas Betty was born and raised in Michoacán, a central state in Mexico that's famous for its paletas, a.k.a. popsicles. Alatorre de Hong grew up with traditional Mexican fare as prepared by her grandmother and her mother, who owned a restaurant specializing in tortas. She may not consider herself a "real chef" but with paletas as good as Betty's, a product of her experiences from traditional Mexican roots and modern American culture, we don't care.

I arrived in Phoenix with... little more than my family. On the flight from Mexico, I remember having a little pillow my grandma made for me, my school ID, and a necklace which I still have.

If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... Shakira and Ricky Martin, so they could teach me their moves, Howard Schultz and Oprah, so I could pick their brains, and, finally, Rick Bayless, just so I can compare his mole sauce to my mom's.

One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat at is... Phoenix Ranch Market. You have to ask for the carnitas de masisa, or you won't get the better cuts. They are perfect on a fresh tortilla with cilantro and lime.

One menu item this city could do without is... any Mexican dish covered in yellow cheese. We grew up with queso fresco, and I never got used to a dish being blanketed in melted cheese.

My last meal in Phoenix would be... Joe's Real BBQ in downtown Gilbert: pulled pork sandwich, BBQ beans, and a cookie. It's as honest as it gets.

The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco 98: Lara Mulchay 97: M.J. Coe

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