F.A.Qs: Stephen Chavez and Art Rodriguez of LatinoFoodie.com

Los Angeles-based culinary duo Art Rodriguez and Stephen Chavez are the creators of LatinoFoodie.com, a food site that is my preoccupation these days. Together, talented home cook Stephen and culinary school grad Art  celebrate traditional Mexican cuisine while putting an inventive modern spin on classic dishes. More than once, their talents have made this Bronx boy miss eating in his hometown, where delicious Latin food was never more than a stone’s throw away. For our April interview, the guys talked with me about their site’s guiding mission, upcoming food events that excite them, and more.

Flavorful World: LatinoFoodie.com has grown into a trusted resource for information on local food events and festivals. What upcoming Spring or Summer event(s) are you most looking forward to attending for the first time, and what aspect of the event(s) most appeals to you?

Stephen and Art: We are looking forward to some key food and wine events happening in Southern California this spring and summer. The ones on the top of our list are Tacolandia on Saturday, June 17 presented by LA Weekly and curated by Mexican food expert and author Bill Esparza. https://tacolandia.laweekly.com/  Tacolandia brings taqueros from Baja California and Los Angeles together for a one-day food binge on tacos. The other one is on Friday, July 28 called East LA Meets Napa presented by AltaMed Health Care Corporation. Pairing gourmet cuisine with fine wines, East LA Meets Napa is a unique event that celebrates the richness of Latin food and the success of Latino-owned vineyards in California.

FW: Describe LatinoFoodie’s mission in a single sentence. What inspired you to undertake this mission, and how do you measure your success thus far?

S and A: LatinoFoodie’s mission is to introduce new, authentic Mexican cuisine to our readers. We measure our success by the feedback we receive from readers and the opportunities opened up to us from corporate brands and travel destinations.

FW: Tell us about your most recent instance of traveling more than 50 miles from home for the purpose of experiencing a particular food or drink. What was the dish or beverage that drew you? How did the experience compare to your expectations?

S and A: We had a craving for Pozole, the Mexican stew with hominy and pork and we kept hearing about the Pozole in New Mexico. We also wanted to have a better understanding of New Mexican cuisine and food from the Southwest territory of the United States. One hot August in 2015 we packed up the car and drove from LA to Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona in Arizona, and to Albuquerque and Santa Fe in New Mexico. We discovered the broth to be much thicker in New Mexico than what we normally get served here in Los Angeles. Plus, my mouth is watering now thinking about the immense heat of the Puerco en Salsa Verde from Albuquerque.

FW: One of your website sections is titled “Cultural Capsules.” What would you say is the main function a cultural capsule should achieve/fulfill?  How did you determine what topics to cover in that series? Are there any topics that you haven’t yet gotten around to covering but still intend to?

S and A: The Cultural Capsules section on the blog is where readers will learn more about cultural trends when it comes to Latinos and food and beverages. For example, in that section you’ll learn the history of the tomato or about the thousands of varieties of the potato coming from Peru. There are so many more topics we want to cover when it comes to food and history and our culture. It’s rich with information.

FW: Tell us about you most recent restaurant outing that left you feeling underwhelmed and what aspects of the visit made it subpar. Tell us about you most recent restaurant outing that left a favorable impression and what aspects of the visit made it positive.

S and A: It is so disappointing to wait for a new restaurant to open only to be disappointed. We had a new Baja-style fish taco joint open up around the block from where we live in LA. I had been waiting for the restaurant to open thinking about the freshly made battered fish tacos we eat in Ensanada, Mexico. The time I drove by there was a line running out the door. I thought this is a great sign. Art and I went back for lunch the next day only to be completely disappointed with the quality of the food, tortillas, and overall experience.

In Los Angeles, we have lots of options for good tasting Mexican food. The challenge at times is finding a restaurant that has good quality tortillas. For most restaurants, it is tough and expensive to get Non-GMO corn tortillas or to hand make their own tortillas. We went to a small place in East LA and discovered they handmade their flour tortillas Sonora, Mexico style, meaning they were large, soft, and thin. It was the perfect vessel to fill with frijoles, arroz, and carne asada.

FW: Your Chef Q & A series spotlights the works and achievements of talented Latino/a chefs. Tell us 1-3 Latino/a chefs that you haven’t yet featured, but would be a dream to interview? What earns each of these chefs a place on your bucket list?

S and A: Chef Wes Avila from Guerilla Tacos – for his attention to detail, quality ingredients, and elevation of the taco and flavors while staying true to his roots.
At 94 years old, we would love to sit down and talk with Diana Kennedy, a Mexican cooking authority known for her 9 books on the subject, including The Cuisines of Mexico, which started changing how Americans view Mexican cooking.
Ramiro Arvizu & Jaime Martin del Campo – Classic Southern California chefs at one of LA’s most respected and cherished restaurants, La Casita Mexicana.

FW: Each of you please tell us one thing that frequent visitors to your site probably don’t know about you.

Stephen — “Most people don’t realize that I am the one who does most of the cooking at home for us on a daily basis. Art is the classically trained chef. I learned from my mama. When it comes to feeding this family, like my mom, I am the one behind the stove, much like my mama.”

Art — “People may not know that I was the manager of a bookstore for more than seven years before I went to culinary school.”

FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name each of you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?

S and A: The name of our culinary memoir would be, “Bears in the Kitchen: Hambre for more!”

FW: When you aren’t cooking/eating delicious things, how do you each most enjoy spending your time?

S and A: When we’re not cooking we’re probably reading books and magazines about the food world. We have a bucket list of countries to visit and just knocked off Italy in March. We also have two dogs (our fur babies) that keep us busy.

*Note to readers: Find the latest and greatest additions to Art and Stephen’s menu along with timely info on L.A.-area food events, culinary cultural snapshots, and more at LatinoFoodie.com, and don’t forget to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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