Here’s What These Top Mexican Chefs Have To Say About The Future Of Mexican Food In The US
Mexican food is one of most popular cuisines in the United States and for good reason. In 2017, CHD Expert estimated that there are more than 59,800 Mexican restaurants in the U.S. Mexican Menu foods are also more common in the U.S. than hamburgers or pizza. That’s why it’s no surprise that Mexican chefs are constantly re-inventing the iconic food and finding new ways to prepare timeless dishes.
Some of the top Mexican and Mexican-American chefs gathered for a panel about the future of Mexican cuisine in the U.S.
Cacique, a leading brand of Mexican-style cheeses, curated a panel discussion with some of the world’s top Mexican and Mexican-American chefs to share their takes on what will impact the culinary world.
The panel was hosted by award-winning chef Aarón Sánchez and consisted of Chef Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza in Los Angeles, Chef Richard Ampudia of La Esquina in New York City, Chef Santiago Gomez of Cantina La Veinte and Tacology in Miami and Chef Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles. These are some of dishes and food trends they think you should look out for in the coming year.
Among the many food trends you should expect to see in 2019 are the return to local origin ingredients and handmade tortillas.
In the world of food there are countless trends that come and go but when it comes to Mexican food what was once old is now new. When asked what we should look out for in Mexican food in 2019, Lopez said she sees the return to basics in terms of where chefs find their ingredients. She says there will be a localized understanding and appreciation of the ingredients that comes from Mexican cuisine.
“I think there will be a growing respect and appreciation for these types of ingredients that don’t necessarily come from the U.S. like chiles and pozole,” Lopez said. “Places like Oaxaca have some of the best ingredients and you can tell the difference just be a single ingredient.”
Avila uses handmade tortillas for all his food at his taco restaurant in LA. According to Avila, we should expect to see a growing appreciation for the ingredients and process used to make them.
“I think if you ask anyone that’s had a handmade tortilla they can taste the flour and the corn and there is a certain appreciation for the entire process,” Avila said. “It might take more time to make but that’s where the consumer needs to appreciate there is a lot of heart going into their dish.”
Open fire cooking will return as the top preparation style at restaurants.
According to Avila and Lopez, open fire grilling isn’t only what’s next in Mexican cuisine it’s going to be part of a revolution in how many restaurants prepare their food. Open fire grilling is popular because of the slow cook burning taste that meats like barbacoa get when prepared over wood.
“It’s a unique taste when you bite into some barbacoa and can see the smokey flavors that went into preparing it,” Avila said.
Lopez says when she traveled to Oaxaca she saw many homes with no refrigerators or stoves just open fire cooking.
Vegan makeovers to Keto Diet-friendly versions of your favorite Mexican classics will be on menus.
As more people switch to healthier and more plant based diets, Mexican dishes have adjusted as well. Ampudia says you may start to see full Mexican food menus catered to vegan and keto diets.
“Dishes like eggplant and squash will take the base of the meal instead of your traditional meats,” Ampudia says. “We are moving towards a new movement in Mexican food that is being influenced by mainstream dieting food trends.”
A fusion of Asian and Mexican techniques will be used when preparing and presenting dishes.
Ampudia says that when traveling to Mexico City he has seen a growing population of Japanese chefs in the area that are creating Mexican-Asian fused dishes. He says the growing population of chefs are already influencing young Mexican chefs in the area who in return are traveling to the U.S and Europe with these new fresh ideas.
“Asian-Mexican fusion is here to stay and the dishes compliment each other so well with their flavors,” Ampudia says. “Umami and these different types of spices can be found in Mexico and in Asia which makes it easy to create these dishes.”
Los Angeles and Chicago will continue to grow as hotspots for Mexican food in the United States.
Both LA and Chicago are home to some of the largest populations of Latinos in the country. Avila says LA is the mecca of Mexican food in the U.S. and says that that’s where the Mexican food future is. He says that because of California’s resources when it comes to ingredients which makes it easier to experiment and try out new dishes year round.
“All eyes are going to be on LA when it comes to the forefront of what’s next in Mexican food,” Avila said.
Gomez has also seen Miami grow not only as a Mexican community but a hot spot of new dishes because ingredients are becoming more available than ever before.
“Everyone down there is into the corn, frijoles and quesos which is paving the way for more dishes. It’s a difficult place because it has a lot of Latin influences but not Mexican,” Gomez says. “Were trying to show that Mexican food not only is making its mark in Miami but it has a home.”
As for things that need to change is the misconception that Mexican food is cheap street food.
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to Mexican food is that it’s cheap and you shouldn’t pay as much for it compared to other dishes. All of the chefs agree that this stigma needs to change and it starts with Mexicans themselves who need to start appreciating their own food. That also applies to using the correct names when listing food items on menus instead of trying to create trendy new titles.
“I always hear people say ‘OMG I love Mexican food but when it’s too expensive I won’t pay for it’ and that needs to stop and start with us,” Lopez says. “The idea that it’s okay to pay $20 for a bowl of pasta but trip when they have to pay for a $20 bowl of mole is insane. As Mexicans and Mexican-American chefs we should be the first to give our food the respect it deserves.”
READ: These Restaurants Are Serving Up Some Of The Best Mexican Food From The West Coast To The East Coast
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