Chef News

Silvana Salcido Esparza on Barrio Queen: "I'm Proud of What I Did"

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See also: Barrio Queen in Gilbert to Open Under Chef Elena Moreno; Additional Locations to Follow

So what does that leave Esparza with? For now, just her 12-year-old restaurant Barrio Cafe, the one that's she calls her "baby" and the one that's helped set the bar for Valley Mexican cuisine.

But don't worry, the chef's not sitting still for long. She has several new projects in the works, though nothing's set in stone just yet. She's also working on building out the space next door to her original restaurant to open an expanded bar. When it's completed, it will highlight a vintage wooden bar she brought from Mexico years ago.

Legally, Esparza's not able to go into detail about the reasons behind her split from Barrio Culinary Concepts, but we did catch up with her to talk about what she's doing now and how she's moving forward.

Was there any concern from you as far as them keeping the Barrio branding?

No, because I left a really good crew there.

The staff that's there, from the vets to the dishwashers, they're fabulous. They will continue. They're part of the culture. They're part of the soul and you can't buy soul with money, I promise you that. Soul comes from people and the people that are there are going to continue to feed the soul of that restaurant. My recipes are there. Elena's been doing them for, you know, ten years.

So, I'm comfortable. I'm very proud of what I did and like I said, it was very, very hard. I opened two restaurants and had to fuse it into one. It did have an identity crisis and then for the last year, I feel like that it has really come into its own and started kicking some ass and I was very happy. So when I walked away I walked away like I completed the project -- and I'm ready for more projects.

So, what's next?

One thing I've learned is, I'm not going to say whats next. Because then it's like the "going to the west side" announcement. I was. I had a lease. I had a promise. And everything went south.

For now, I can tell you that it is in the city of Phoenix proper. It is a deal that I'm trying to put together. It's in uptown, so its really not too far from here. It's a pretty happening place and it's pretty dense with "taco-this" and "taco-that". . . but it's going to be different. I'm sick of faux tacos.

A street taco, let's get that shit straight. A street taco is only a street taco if you're standing with your feet on the street. Possibly a sidewalk, could be a parking lot, if you're sitting in a restaurant, it's a restaurant taco. That's it. It's real simple.

Is it possible to find real Mexican food here?

It doesn't exist. You know where it exists? In someone's home. You ask a real Mexican, "Where do you eat?" They'll say, "Mi casa." Or, "Where do you go for Mexican food?" They'll say, "Mi casa." I've heard that since I was a child and I've been in the business of feeding people since I was a child as well.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria