Courtesy El Pollo Loco

So much of Latino culture revolves around food. From enchiladas to ropa vieja, to churrasco, Latinos express their heritage through the foods of their countries of origin. And Latinos’ input on the Americans’ food preferences is obvious. Right after Chinese food, Mexican food is America’s favorite ethnic cuisine.

Why then, are the contributions of Latino chefs so often overlooked by prestigious culinary institutions?

el pollo loco

El Pollo Loco is asking that exact question. Culinary institutions like Michelin and James Beard rarely recognize Latino chefs, despite Latinos being so deeply embedded in the restaurant industry. According to El Pollo Loco, Latinos hold 30% of the restaurant and foodservice jobs in the U.S. They make up 23% of chefs and 18% of restaurant owners.

As of 2018, only 2.4% of the James Beard Award nominees have been Latino, despite, as we said above, them making up 23% of executive chefs in the U.S. Eternally proud of its Mexican roots, El Pollo Loco aims to bring attention to this disparity.

In Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month El Pollo Loco launched an awards campaign to promote 11 Latino chefs who deserve to be recognized by the James Beard Foundation.

The James Beard Foundation is an organization that aims to “celebrate and support the people behind America’s food culture while pushing for new standards in the restaurant industry.” Each year, they award five exceptional chefs with the prestigious James Beard Award — a recognition that many chefs consider the honor of a lifetime.

Just like production companies promote movie stars during awards season, El Pollo Loco will be promoting these 11 chefs who El Pollo Loco believes should be recognized by the James Beard Foundation through billboards, ads, and social media posts.

“The Hispanic community is the backbone of the U.S. food industry, and yet, the country’s ever-growing wealth of Hispanic culinary talent and contributions continue to be overlooked and underappreciated,” said El Pollo Loco CEO Bernard Acoca in a statement.

el pollo loco

He continued: “Eighty percent of El Pollo Loco’s workforce is Hispanic, and we take great pride in our Mexican roots, so it feels right to pay homage to Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting this unacceptable disparity to elicit positive change.”

For fans of “Top Chef,” some of the chefs they’re promoting may be familiar. “Top Chef” alums like Chef Nelson German, Chef Byron Gomez, “Top Chef Portland” alum Chef Maria Mazon, and three-time Top Chef All-Star Angelo Sosa Angelo appear on the list. The others on the list are Chef Manny Barella, Chef Michael Diaz de Leon, Chef Danielle Duran Zecca, Chef Crystal Espinoza, Chef Christina Galtman, Chef Eduardo Ruiz and Chef Loreta Ruiz.

El Pollo Loco is also asking its followers to tag and shout out the Latino chefs in their life who deserve to be publicly recognized. After all, Hispanic Heritage Month is the time of year in which we celebrate Latinos’ contributions to the culture, both big and small.