Mexican Food Doesn’t Get The Respect It Deserves, Says Chef Javier Plascencia
Tijuana-born Javier Plascencia knows how to run a Mexican restaurant: His family runs 13 successful businesses in Mexico alone.
However, in 2015, when Plascencia opened Bracero in San Diego, Calif., he was surprised to find U.S. customers giving him the cold shoulder.
In a recent interview with Vice’s Javier Cabral, Plascencia says he wasn’t entirely prepared to clash with U.S. expectations of Mexican food.
A respected chef in Mexico, Plascencia specializes in modern Mexican cuisine. He uses modern techniques to create unique dishes that highlight traditional Mexican flavors.
In the U.S., Mexican food has a reputation for being quick and cheap, an expectation that carries over to modern Mexican cuisine, which is often more expensive. “We get a lot of requests for chips, salsa, and burritos,” Plascencia told Vice. “I do not serve these items. [Americans] also expect big, big, big portions and are not willing to pay $5 for a taco.” These are among the several reasons many potential patrons bristle at the style of Mexican cuisine Plascencia is trying to introduce to a U.S. audience.
Plascencia believes that many people undervalue the amount of time and work that goes into creating many Mexican dishes.
“You probably won’t be able to tell by the looks of the tiny cup full of salsa on your table at Bracero, but you would not believe how much time and labor goes into making just that one alone,” Plascencia said.
Plascencia also says Mexican-Americans have a much different idea of what “traditional” Mexican flavors are:
“A lot of American-born cooks who work for me haven’t tasted the real flavors of simple, traditional, Mexican-style braised dishes or even a homemade mole, so it is really difficult to train them to accurately recreate proper Mexican flavors.” In spite of these culinary hurdles, Plascencia’s two U.S.-based restaurants have achieved critical acclaim and a loyal fan base.
Plascencia says he’s noticed that younger patrons are more willing to try modern Mexican cuisine.
For someone who came to the U.S. to escape Tijuana’s kidnapping and crime epidemic, Plascencia is laser focused to broadening our perception of how we can experience Mexican food. Make sure to check out the full interview at Vice, which is packed with more insight from Plascencia.
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