Meet The Undocumented Chef Who Owns One Of The Most Beloved Mexican Food Spots In Philly
Credit: Bon Appetit / YouTube
“The fact that we have a business proves to the community that we can do it.”
Cristina Martinez makes food that reminds her customers of home. The Philadelphia-based chef, and her husband, Ben Miller, are the owners of South Philly Barbacoa, a restaurant that specializes in barbacoa, slow-cooked lamb that people flock to eat on weekends. For Martinez, an undocumented immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, the journey hasn’t been easy. She met her husband while they were working together in a restaurant together — she was a pastry chef, he was a pantry chef. After Martinez’s bosses found out she was undocumented, she was fired. She then began selling quesadillas de sesos (brains) to workers in Philadephia’s 9th Street Italian Market. Eventually, Martinez started selling barbacoa out of her apartment on the weekends. She was so successful that she and Miller opened South Philly Barbacoa, which was recently named one of America’s best new restaurants by Bon Appetit magazine.
Watch Bon Appetit’s powerful video interview with Martinez and Miller, which touches not only on the power of her food, but their touching story about falling in love, and their vocal support for Philly’s undocumented community.