Culture

His Mother Encouraged Him To Follow His Culinary Dreams. Now He’s A Judge On MasterChef

Celebrity chef, philanthropist, restaurant owner and MasterChef judge, those are just a few titles used for Aarón Sanchez. The chef opened his first restaurant in 2000 and has been spreading his food and expertise since then. Not only does Sanchez give aspiring chefs tough critiques on MasterChef, he also provides a scholarship for aspiring Latino chefs. Sanchez spoke with mitú about his time as a chef, growing up in a non-machismo home and what he hopes his successes could mean for other Latinos trying to follow in his footsteps.

You might recognize Aarón Sanchez as one of the judges on MasterChef.

The chef has lent his expertise and tough critiques to contestants on season 8 and season 9. He was also a guest co-host during season 7. All this has come after a long career as a chef spreading his food and appreciation far and wide.

As a child, Sanchez was surrounded by strong women who made their own marks on the culinary world.

#TBT Mama's little helper #MexiCAN

A post shared by Aarón Sánchez (@chef_aaronsanchez) on

Sanchez says that machismo was not something that he ever experienced in his childhood. In fact, his mother and grandmother nurtured his interest in food as they themselves made their names in food.

“My mom had a restaurant for 30 years in New York City. She’s an author of three cookbooks,” Sanchez recalls about his upbringing. “My grandmother also wrote a cookbook. All the women in my family were absolutely essential in my formation and my love for food. Without them I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”

But the one bit of advice his mother did stress was finding his own culinary voice.

“I told my mom I wanted to be a chef and all she said to me was ‘to continue to go through your craft, make sure that you find your voice, and don’t be a retrogradation of me,'” Sanchez says. “That was the biggest piece of advice she gave me when I told her I wanted to be a chef.”

As a chef, his career began and grew alongside Anthony Bourdain’s.

In 2000, Bourdain published his infamous “Kitchen Confidential” book. That was the same year that Sanchez opened his first restaurant.

“We used to run into each other a lot in social settings and at the farmers market and we kind of ran with the same crew,” Sanchez remembers about his friendship with Bourdain. “He was someone that I considered a great friend.” He added: “I remember his unbelievable wit, I remember how smart he was and how grateful he was to have his opportunity, to touch so many people through television. He was a self-proclaimed mesa.”

Sanchez admits that his career and experiences were shaped by his friendship with Bourdain.

“One thing he would always say was, learn the culture and make friends along the way and open yourself up and make sure you’re not just there to extract recipes from them,” he says. “You’re there to make friendship and bonds.”

“Food has done a lot [for me],” Sanchez explains.

It is something so important to his life that he can’t imagine himself doing anything different.

“It’s allowed me to be able to inspire others, it’s allowed me to maintain my culture, stay close to my family,” Sanchez says. “It’s given me an unbelievable lifestyle and it’s allowed me to travel the world.”

Food has been so pivotal to his life that he set up a scholarship fund to help other Latinos become chefs in their own right.

The idea for the foundation came to Sanchez because he wanted to make sure he was recognizing the next generation of talent.

“I wanted to create the next executive chefs and [restaurant] owners of Latino descent,” Sanchez explains. “That was really the goal behind it, and education is the most important [part].”

And even Sanchez has been touched by the students who use the scholarship, like Oswaldo Rios.

“He was the first one and I remember giving him the scholarship. His grandmother and mother came to the actual unveiling of him winning and all of them were crying,” Sanchez remembers. “No one could believe that he had gotten to this point. It was one of those things where you could tell it was something that they didn’t think was attainable. So that was a very touching moment.”

The one piece of advice Sanchez has for new chefs and restaurant owners: develop your voice.

The Mexi-Cans have arrived in Oxford!! Watch out @johnnysnack @tiomarioog

A post shared by Aarón Sánchez (@chef_aaronsanchez) on

“Make sure that you have developed a culinary style and voice,” Sanchez says. “Whether that’s working 10 years with different chefs or traveling. Continue to refine your cooking ability. Through that you will find the style that you feel will be engaging enough to sustain a restaurant.”

You can catch up with Sanchez on MasterChef every Wednesday 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST.


READ: This Blind Latina Didn’t Just Become a Chef, She Also Opened Her Own Restaurant in Chicago

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Nopales, The OG Ancestral Food We’ve Been Eating Since Waaaay Before Plant Based Foods Became Trendy

Culture

Nopales, The OG Ancestral Food We’ve Been Eating Since Waaaay Before Plant Based Foods Became Trendy

I can literally talk food until my babas drip. Don’t judge. The comelón life chose me and I’m not mad at it. Because growing up Latino meant breakfast wasn’t always cereal, and dinner wasn’t always mac and cheese. I grew up con más sabor en mis platillos than most Americans. And, at the time, I didn’t even realize that many of the foods my family was trying to get me to eat were ancestral foods. From chocolate to cocoa and chia to nopalitos, I blame los ancestros for my obsession with food and all the glorious ingredients that have been passed down for generations.

My knees already feel weak, fam, because today I’m gonna be talking nopalitos. Ya me estoy chupando los dedos, thinking back to how I grew up with these babies always in the refri in that Nopalitos jar, ready to be thrown into a sauce or encima de una carne asada. It turns out this soul-feeding food is one of the OG ancestral foods that have been used by our people for thousands of years. Ahí les va un poco de historia:

The Mexica introduced the world to the “fruit of the Earth.”

In Náhuatl, the word for nopal translates to “fruit of the Earth.” I don’t know what the Náhuatl word for “bomb-delicioso” is, but in my opinion, that should also be the name for nopales. And the Aztecs must have felt this way too because one of the most famous cities in the Aztec Empire – Tenochtitlán, the empire’s religious center – was named “prickly pear on a rock.” Iconic.

According to legend, the city was built after an Azteca priest spotted an eagle perched on a nopal plant, carrying a snake in its mouth. The priest, obviously extremadamente blown away by this, ran back to his village just so he could gather everyone to check out this crazy eagle with a snake in its mouth. As they watched, the cactus beneath the eagle grew into an island – eventually becoming Tenochtitlán. I’ll give you 3 seconds to just process that. 1…2…3. Please take more time if you need it. The image of the eagle carrying a snake, its golden talons perched on a nopal growing from a rock, can now be found on the Mexican flag.

Today, we know that the Mexica were right to call nopales the plant of life.

In Mexico, it’s still common to place a handful of nopal flowers in a bath to help relax achy muscles. And nopales are becoming more popular than ever in beauty treatments to help fight aging. But, y’all are too beautiful to be needing them for that, so let’s talk about what’s important — eating them.

There are so many ways you can mix this iconic ingredient into your meals.

We should all be eating our green foods. Your tía, your abuela, your primo, everyone…except your ex. Your ex can eat basura. I said what I said. But, nopalitos are especially important. These tenacious desert plants can be eaten raw, sautéed, pickled, grilled – they’re even used as pizza toppings. Though for some people, nopales – with their spines and texture – can be intimidating. After cutting off the spines and edges, and cutting them into slices, they will bleed a clear slime. But boiling for 20 minutes will take care of that. Or make it even easier on yourself and avoid espinas by buying them all ready-to-go from the brand we all know and love, DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos.

Check it out, I’m even gonna hook it up with that good-good, because if you’re looking for ways to enjoy your nopales, I got’chu with some starter links to recipes: Hibiscus and Nopal Tacos, Nopal Tostadas, Roasted Nopales con Mole, and Lentil Soup con Nopales.  One of my personal favorite ways to eat them is in a beautiful Cactus Salad, full of color and flavor. Trust. I rate these dishes 10 out of 10, guaranteed to make your babas drip, and when you eat this ensalada de nopalitos, you will remember even your ancestors were dripping babas over this waaay before it was cool to eat plant-based foods.

So let’s give the poderoso nopal the spotlight it deserves by adding it to our shopping lists more often.

Rich in history, mythology, and practical uses, the nopal’s enduring popularity is a testament to its versatility. It’s time to give this classic ingredient the respect it deserves and recognize just how chingon our ancestors are for making nopales fire before plantbase foods were even trending.

Next time you’re at the supermercado, do your ancestors proud and add nopales to your shopping cart by picking up a jar of DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos. This easy-to-use food will definitely give you a major boost of pride in your roots. Viva los nopalitos bay-beh!

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A Mexican Artist Is Making Pancake Art That’s Too Beautiful To Eat

Culture

A Mexican Artist Is Making Pancake Art That’s Too Beautiful To Eat

Social media is where people can show off just about anything they create. This includes art in any and all media, like pancake art. Claudia, the creator behind Nappan Pancake art, is the latest artist watching their art reach the masses.

Claudia, the artist behind Nappan Pancake art, got her start because of the pandemic.

@nappancakes

casi ✨1 año✨haciendo #pancakeart 🥞 #parati #foryou #viral #trend #glowup #art #foryoupage

♬ Inox la bggg – ᗰᗩᖇIE ᗰOI ᑎᗩᖇᑌTO

The artist first started to play around with pancake art last spring break when the pandemic forced businesses and schools to close. Claudia wanted to get more creative with her kids’ breakfasts since they were now always at home.

“I started experimenting with making Pancake art,” Claudia recalls to mitú. “At first I only used the color of the natural dough and a little cocoa. At first, I just used the ketchup dispensers and little by little I learned.”

Claudia uses her pancake art to honor some truly iconic people.

@nappancakes

Responder a @detodoun_poco233 Cepillín ✨🥞✨ en nuestros ♥️ #parati #fy #HijosAdopTiktoks #adoptiktoks #viral #foryou @cepillintv #pancakeart ncakeart

♬ La Feria de Cepillin – Cepillín

Cepillín recently died and the loss was felt throughout the community. He made our lives joyous and fun with his music, especially his birthday song. Some of the creations are done for fans who request to see their faves turned into delicious pancake art.

The artist loves creating the edible works of art.

The journey of becoming a pancake artist has been a fun adventure for Claudia and her children. The more she has practiced, the more she has been able to do.

“Sometimes I scream with excitement and I go to all the members of my house to see it,” Claudia says about her successes. “Other times it’s just a feeling like “disappointment could be better” other times it just breaks or burns and then I just cry but it usually feels very satisfying.”

You can check out all of her creations on TikTok.

@nappancakes

Responder a @reyna100804santoyo siii🥞✨ díganle que me adopte 🥺 @ederbez #adoptiktoks #hijosadoptiktoks #parati #foryou #viral #fy #art #pancakeart

♬ Little Bitty Pretty One – Thurston Harris

With 350,000 followers and growing, it won’t be long until more people start to fully enjoy Claudia’s art. Her children can’t get enough of it and she is so excited to share it with the rest of the world.

READ: Spicy Food Lovers Have Reason To Celebrate As New Study Says Eating Chilies Could Be Secret To Longevity

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