Culture

These Latin American Restaurants Just Got Voted Into The Top Restaurants In The World By World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards

As we reported a few days ago, Latin American chefs did pretty great at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in Singapore. Latin American fine cuisine got a total of nine spots in the list, and two in the top ten. This is quite an achievement for a region that is relatively new to fine dining. Cities like Mexico City and Lima have just become culinary epicenters thanks to visionaries that have translated tradition into modern masterpieces. However, credit is due to the centuries of cultural remix that has produced legendary dishes. Indigenous, colonial and other influences come together in the plate and wow judges and patrons. If these places have something in common, it is the inquisitive nature of their lead chefs. They went deep into the cultural roots of their countries, even finding new ingredients to achieve creativity and perfection.

Latin American fine cuisine got a total of nine spots in the list, and two in the top ten. This is quite an achievement for a region that is relatively new to fine dining. Cities like Mexico City and Lima have just become culinary epicenters thanks to visionaries that have translated tradition into modern masterpieces. However, credit is due to the centuries of cultural remix that has produced legendary dishes. Indigenous, colonial and other influences come together in the plate and wow judges and patrons. If these places have something in common, it is the inquisitive nature of their lead chefs. They went deep into the cultural roots of their countries, even finding new ingredients to achieve creativity and perfection.

We have to pay respect to the traditional recipes and the many years (and sometimes centuries) of experimentation by everyday cooks that led to these awards. So, we have listed some of the traditional influences that these restaurants have had. Sometimes it was all there already, and chefs just took it a step further! The restaurants in this list range from the high end to a Brazilian eatery that is relaxed and not expensive at all.

At number 6: Central (Lima, Peru), Best restaurant in South America,
Influenced by: ancient, indigenous Peruvian food

Credit: thefoodcray / Instagram

This is the flagship restaurant of kitchen wizard Virgilio Martínez Véliz, who travels deep into each region of his home country to fund ancient ingredients. He collaborates with indigenous men and women to learn about traditional ways of cooking. He has introduced ingredients such as the Amazonian piranha into the menu. His drive to experiment has made him a celebrity chef the world over. You can learn about his journey in S3E6 of the Netflix show Chef’s Table

At number 10:  Maido (Lima, Peru), Influenced by: traditional Japanese cuisine with a Peruvian twist and local ingredients

Credit: mitsuharu_maido / Instagram

A testament to the ethnic diversity of Peru. The Japanese immigration in Peru has been constant and has led this ethnic minority to have a vibrant place in the social, cultural and political life of the South American country. This restaurant is let my “Micha” Tsumura, who offers a Nikkei experience that includes classic Peruvian seafood such as sea urchin and sea snail. Lima is certainly keeping up with cities such as New York, Tokyo, and Paris, which are usually the leaders of the pack. 

3. At number 12: Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico), Best Restaurant in North America, Influenced by: traditional Mexican food, particularly from Oaxaca

Credit: pujolrestaurant / Instagram

Enrique Olvera has established himself as one of the main voices of the global fine art circuit. In his flagship Mexico City restaurant he offers dishes that use indigenous ingredients, particularly from the colorful region of Oaxaca. His team makes tortillas by hand, grinding species of corn that are rare. Olvera is not shy to experiment with ingredients that might seem “weird” to Western patrons, such as chicatana ants. A delightful experience that needs to be tasted to be believed. 

4. At number 23: Cosme (New York City), Influenced by: traditional Mexican garnachas 

Credit: cosmenyc / Instagram

A New York restaurant with a 100% Mexican soul. Created by Olvera and led by Mexican chef Daniela Soto-Innes, who has revealed herself as a unique culinary voice and was named the World’s Best Female Chef 2019. She serves Modern Mexican food that is inspired by the crunchiness and glorious saltiness of Mexican street food, or garnachas. If you want to take your carnitas, infladitas, and tamales to the next level, then this is the place for you. Sinful delights all around. By the way, the kitchen is 50% female, which goes hand in hand with the chef’s ideas of equality. She also employs people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, both from the United States and overseas. 

5. At number 24: Quintonil (Mexico City, Mexico), Influenced by: traditional Mexican cuisine

Credit: rest_quintonil / Instagram

The brainchild of chef Jorge Vallejo (who used to work at Pujol) is a tribute to the postcolonial flavors of Mexico. If Pujol strived to bring back ancient recipes, Quintonil offers new interpretations of classic everyday dishes such as tostadas de cangrejo and the luxurious escamoles (ant eggs). Even dishes that your abuelita might have made, such as Huazontles or salpicon, are featured here. Look at their take on a flauta in the photo above. 

6. At number 26: Boragó (Santiago, Chile), Influenced by: ingredients from Chile’s geographical diversity

Credit: rgborago / Instagram

Rodolfo Guzman is a raising rockstar. Like Peru’s Central, this restaurant features ingredients from every corner of the country. Rodolfo gets ingredients from the Atacama desert, all the way down to the frigid Patagonia landscapes. Have you ever tasted flowers? Well, here you can: the signature dishes is a blend of roasted flowers, Van Gogh style! 

7. At number 34: Don Julio (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Influenced by: traditional asado techniques 

Credit: donjulioparrilla / Instagram

They say that if you are going to do one thing, you do it the best you can. This restaurant led by Pablo Jesus Rivero might make the best steak in the world. Following the traditional ways of cooking meat in the Pampas, cuts like rump steak and skirt steak are cooked to perfection. Sweetbread empanadas are also a standout. The decor follows the aesthetic of a 19th-century country estancia, when European pioneers made their way into the depths of the nascent country.

8. At number 39: A Casa do Porco (São Paulo, Brazil), Influenced by: Brazilian working class cooking

Credit: acadadoporcobar / Instagram

Pork is a relatively easy stock to raise, and it has been a staple in the diets of Brazilians for centuries. Chef Jefferson Rueda reimagines everything you can do with pork. He raises the pigs on a diet of vegetables, slaughters them in house and uses every single part of the animal, making items such as blood sausages. The degustation menu is a culinary experience that also includes beans, cabbage, and banana, other staples of Brazilian home kitchens. The owners strive to make the restaurant accessible to the community, so prices are far from exorbitant. You can dine for $13 dollars.

9. At number 49: Leo (Bogotá, Colombia), Influenced by: indigenous uses of local fruits and vegetables

Credit: tevedolinsky / Instagram

Chef Leonor Espinosa has become a celebrity thanks to her bubbly personality and her use of little known ingredients such as corozo fruit, arrechon (a supposed aphrodisiac) and bijao, a banana-like plant. She learns from communities and their gastronomic traditions, creating dishes that include, for example, a crunchy coating made from ants. The menu explores different Colombian animal and plant species. A map shows where each one was sourced. The chef also runs a foundation FUNLEO, which aims to identify, reclaim and enhance the culinary traditions in Colombian communities.

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Food Crimes Committed In The Past Decade That Will Crack You Up

Culture

Food Crimes Committed In The Past Decade That Will Crack You Up

New Smyrna Police Department/Shutterstock

Ever crave a meal so bad you’d kill for it? 

When it comes to meals, some people literally don’t play. We learned that several times over in the past few years. Particularly this year when craze over Popeyes chicken sandwich sparked mayhem across the country. At the height of their craze, Popeyes stores routinely hit with long lines and sold out sandwiches which surprisingly unleashed a world of wild in various states. In fact, in November of last year, a man by the name of Ricoh McClaine fatally stabbed a customer in Maryland who had cut in front of the lines to purchase his sandwich. Fortunately, our list of food-related crimes are a bit lighter and funnier than cases of murder. Below, find a series of stories in which desperate food cravings led to desperate crimes. From a man who stole food from his own mama to to a woman who went ham at a taco store. We literally rounded up the best stories we could find online about food crimes. 

Check them out! 

That time a guy from New Mexico was arrested for stealing his mom’s pozole

mitú

It’s true. According to the Albuquerque Journal, a 23-year-old man texted his mother that he would drop by to eat. Ray’s mother told police she asked him not to go to the house. When she arrived, Ray entered through the back door, opened the fridge and ran off with a large pot of pozole. “He opened the door and grabbed that big pot of pozole I had made for my kids. He knew I had made it,” said Ray’s mother to the Albuquerque Journal.

When an Indiana woman was dining and dashing with chalupas and charged with felony theft.

Taco Bell

Los Amigos, an Indiana restaurant specializing in “authentic” Mexican food, took a woman named Jennifer Peru to court because she refused to pay for a chalupa that she claimed wasn’t a real chalupa.

On its surface, we can understand why Culver was confused. The chalupas that are sold at Taco Bell are described as  “a fried tortilla shell, in the shape of a small boat, filled with lots of flavorful ingredients”, and Culver may have been used to that version. But according to Los Amigos’s menu, their chalupa is “a flat tortilla with refried beans, topped with cheese and guacamole salad”. To no one’s suprrise, there is quite a stark contrast between the way a fast food joint approaches making Mexican food in comparison to the way a local, mom-and-pop store would make one. 

According to court records, Culver tried to sneak out of the restaurant by walking “briskly” past the cash register with her two children in tow. But the restaurant manager caught up to Culver in the parking lot before she could make her great escape. After being asked to pay her $11.73 bill, Culver responded that she’s “not paying for that [expletive]”. Because the manager wasn’t one to mess around with, he called the cops on the dine-and-dasher and reported her for theft.  Ultimately, a jury convicted Culver of a level 6 felony theft, resulting in 120 days on electronic monitoring, and 14 months of probation, and fined a cumulative total of $485.

When a Mexican man was caught stealing trompo Meat from a taco shop. 

Pinterest

One man’s hunger and deep love for tacos resulted in one of the best WTF?! moments caught on camera. Video footage recently surfaced of a man in Mexico City stealing, of all things, a trompo of el pastor meat from a small taco stand. Crazy right?

In the video, an unidentified man dressed in black clothing is seen slowly exiting a white car; he scouts the area and a few seconds later approaches the unattended taco stand, grabs the trompo, and drives away with the meaty bounty.

The case of the 14 meth burrito orders

Back on Feb. 3, 2018, Renteria was pulled over in the Angelino Heights neighborhood by Los Angeles Police officers after multiple witnesses reported a white Chevrolet Tahoe driving erratically. When police asked for his license, Renteria didn’t have it on him and was then allowed to search for his registration and insurance. While he couldn’t provide the correct paperwork, police determined the vehicle was registered to Renteria legally but found that his license was expired. That’s when Renteria let police search the vehicle. They would soon find a black garbage bag filled with 14 “foil-wrapped, burrito shaped” packages.

The woman who got her RV stuck in a Taco Bell drive-thru.

 Photo by Kennewick Police Department.

In Washington, Police arrested a woman after suspecting her of being under the influence while driving. According to the Kennewick Police Department, the woman drove her RV the wrong way into the Taco Bell’s drive-thru in December. When the RV couldn’t make the turn around the drive-thru’s corner it got stuck in the building’s corner. 

The drunk man who brought a knife fight to Taco Bell but did not deliver.

New Smyrna Police Department/Shutterstock

In 2014, a drunk man went to Taco Bell to attent to his munchies and got served with an order of handcuffs.  According to WFTV, Gabriel Harris rode his bicycle through the drive-thru of a Taco Bell in FloridaWhen he was told the restaurant was closing he refused to leave until he was served. It wasn’t until police showed up that he pulled out a knife and was ultimately arrested.

Street Vendors Left Confused As Los Angeles Changes Regulations On Street Vendors

Culture

Street Vendors Left Confused As Los Angeles Changes Regulations On Street Vendors

streetvendorsla / Instagram

On most city streets in Los Angeles, you’re never too far from the nearest taco cart or fruit stand. Whether it’s a vendor selling you al-pastor tacos or a paletero greeting you with an elote, street vending is as much a part of the city as the sunshine and palm trees. According to city officials, there are an estimated 50,000 vendors in Los Angeles county alone. For years, many of these vendors faced fines, harassment from police and no real way to regulate vending on city streets. 

All of that is about change as the city of Los Angeles has started to roll out its Sidewalk and Park Vending program that was unanimously passed last year by the Los Angeles City Council. As of Jan. 2, the city has begun accepting permits for legal street food vending that will require vendors to have proper business licenses, health permits, and a $291 fee to operate that will go up to $541 on July 1. Under these new rules, all L.A. street vendors will be required to buy a permit with the city, or ultimately face fines. 

While the new program is being praised, it seems that street vendors are getting the short end of the stick.

One week into the program rollout, many have no clue about the new fees and where to apply for them, let alone afford them.

This ordeal goes back years but street vending took a huge step forward in 2018 when the L.A. City Council approved an ordinance to fully legalize it, following California Gov. Jerry Brown signing bill SB946 to make it easier for sidewalk vendors to operate legally. While the bill was championed at first, what followed was confusion across the state about how to enforce laws when it came to street vendors. Brown left it to California cities to develop their own regulations and rules on how to properly enforce and regulate street vending laws.

The city of L.A. is considered a leader when it comes to street vending regulation so with this month’s new program rollout, other cities across the state are looking at it as an example. But the most obvious roadblock might be educating and informing vendors of their rights and what is needed for them to abide by the law.  

Rudy Espinoza, the Executive Director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network and an activist who has worked for years to legalize street vending in Los Angeles, agrees that L.A. street vendors have been left in the dark. 

 “The big takeaway is that there has been a huge lack of investment in education and that is a big concern of mine,” Espinoza told the Los Angeles Downtown News. “I think a lot of street vendors, many who are in Downtown, don’t know what the rules are and there has to be a serious investment to reach them.”

Community organizers have tried to their best to inform vendors of these changes but many in the city have yet to hear about them nor can many afford these new permits. 

One of biggest issues that has arisen in the rollout of the program is simply the cost of permits. According to Curbed LA, street vendors and community organizers made the case to city leaders to lower permit fees “from $50 to $200, depending on a vendor’s age or ability to pay,” but to no luck. There was also the issue of translation for non-English speaking vendors who attended city council meetings focusing on these permits. 

“We’d like to hear what the councilmembers are saying at the moment because it’s a decision that will affect our lives,” Mayra Hernandez, a street vendor who attended a meeting back in November, told Curbed LA. “And we don’t know if it’s good or bad because we can’t understand.”

This lack of fluid communication has seemed to follow into the new program rollout as many vendors have questions, mainly if they will be able to afford the $541 permit fee. According to a 2015 report by the Economic Roundtable, Sidewalk Stimulus: Economic and Geographic Impact of Los Angeles Street Vendors, LA street vendors “generate on average $204 a week or $10,098 a year in revenue.” This would essentially mean that vendors would have have to use almost three weeks of work to pay for the pricey $541 fee.

 “$541 is a huge part of the rent for people here,” Ramon Lopez, who lives in MacArthur Park, one of the most busiest street vending sections of LA, told the California Globe. “It’s what they make in nearly a month. It buys groceries for a long time.

This leaves a big question mark on the viability of the new street vending program and if the pricey fees will only encourage some vendors to not comply with regulations.  

Street vending plays a big role in the economy of L.A. outside of just vendors’ pockets. They help create foot traffic in city streets and other small businesses that creates a ripple economic effect on those local communities.

With these new regulations in place, the question is now if these businesses can afford to operate legally? That is a question on the minds of many community leaders and street vendors that fought for these regulations for years. 

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