See also: Silvana Salcido Esparza: Tastemaker #92
Do you read cookbooks?: NEVER, but I like to own them. All those pretty photos of food are like food porn for me. They get my creative juices flowing. Name an ingredient you love to cook with: Garlic. This needs no explaining. It's God's gift to all cuisines.
Most overrated ingredient: In the kitchen, it's a matter of personal taste. There are no overrated ingredients.
What really annoys you about "foodies" is: Foodies were fun 10 years ago. They were like hairdressers. They knew everything about anything and they always knew where to go. Unfortunately, in the age of Yelp, foodies are not foodies anymore. Now, they're usually just assholes and posers. Food is such a personal experience. I say, "Eat and let eat."
At Barrio Cafe, you have "comida chingona" written everywhere. What does it mean?: It means "fucking badass food."
And at Barrio Queen, you have Mexican sayings etched in glass. Which saying is your favorite?: "No le sueltes la cola, aunque te cage la mano," which means "Don't let go of the tail, even if it shits in your hand."
Favorite thing to eat growing up: My mother's signature meal -- chile de arbol shrimp soup, enchiladas verdes and flan. Makes me cry every time! Favorite thing to eat now: Pizza and anything Italian. My heart thinks Mexican, but my stomach wants Italian. Weirdest thing you ever ate: Iguana and iguana roe. I had the honor to live with a Zapoteca family that are vendors in the Mercado of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. But it wasn't really weird. It was delicious. Three of your favorite Mexican dishes in town (not at your restaurants): The quesadilla at Los Reyes de la Torta; tlacoyos from El Tlacoyo in Tempe; and menudo and machaca from Pepe's Taco Villa. Two of your favorite restaurants in town (not Mexican): I love Hana. Lori Hashimoto gets down alongside her family. Today, I have the honor of cooking and working with my brothers and nephew, so I can feel that family love at Hana. And it shows in the quality of the cuisine. Next favorite would be Pizzeria Bianco. Chris Bianco is an artist, keeping it simple and fresh. Just thinking of a Wiseguy Pizza makes my mouth water.
Your mantra in the kitchen: Work clean! And do it right the first time. Your guiding principle about cooking: Todo con amor. Don't follow a recipe, feel it. What advice would you give an aspiring chef?: Culinary school or not? The million-dollar question. I would say, get your ass to work first, figure out of this is for you before you blow your wad and owe the government for that student loan for a long, long time because culinary school is stupid-expensive. But, if you are a young Mexican, I say do it. Let me help you, work for me, let me teach you. I figure the more Mexicanos start stepping up to the plate to represent our own food, the better. I mean, it's embarrassing for me when non-Mexicans know more about Mexico and her food than a Mexicano who eats and lives it on a daily basis. Orale cabrones, where the fuck are you? Best thing about being a chef: The people you meet. I love people, love watching people have a good time enjoying my food. Hardest thing about being a chef: The toll it takes on your body. Knees are shot, three ruptured disks on the back, and more. I would do it all over again, but this time I would start younger. Do you consider yourself a badass?: There are soooo many chefs who are better than I. But, like Popeye said, I am what I am. I am a machetona (tomboy) who is passionate about Mexican food, so yeah, I am a badass in that respect. But that does not mean I am a badass chef. Just a badass in my little world. And I do mean little. But, hey, let the record speak for itself. One thing I have learned is that "No soy modenita de oro, para caerle bien a todos," which basically means, "I'm not a gold coin, to be liked all."
Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House James Porter of Petite Maison Johnny Chu of SoChu House Neo Asian + Martini Bar Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Chris Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge Chris Curtiss of NoRTH Arcadia Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles
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