Silvana Salcido Esparza Explains What Mexican Food Is Not and Discusses the Food Term That Makes Her Skin Crawl

Categories: Chef and Tell

In 2002, the same year she was writing a column called La Calle for New Times, she opened Barrio Cafe, earning rave reviews for her unique take on Mexican cooking. In 2004, she was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame and last year -- around the time she opened Barrio Queen -- she was nominated for a James Beard Best Chef Southwest Award. This year, she opened Barrio Cafe at the airport.

If you were a food, what would you be?: Cochinita pibil -- slow-roasted, a little fat, and full of flavor!

Barrio--Arizona Burrito.jpg
Nikki Buchanan
Arizona burrito
What people don't understand about Mexican food is: Everything! Fajitas are not Mexican food. They're America's version of Mexican food. Real Mexican food is not Tex-Mex, Southwestern, New Mexican, or even California-Mexican. Mexican is Mexican. When I first started serving cochinita pibil and chiles en nogada in 2002, people would look at me and say, "This is Mexican???" The sad thing to me, is that no one really ventures past the border anymore; therefore what they eat here in the States is what they call Mexican. 

What are other Arizona-Mexican dishes you don't consider Mexican food?:
Fried ice cream with a cereal crust, chimichangas, sopaipillas (New Mexican) and basically anything on a chain restaurant's menu.  Don't get me wrong, I love a well-made chimi.
Why no chips?: Chips and salsa are another one of those Mexican-American traditions. If you find chips and salsa in Mexico, it's because they're catering to the gringos. Besides I'm a baker's daughter! In my household, bread was the queen and tortillas were king.

Something you'd put on the menu if you thought people would eat it:
Gusanos del maguey. They are little worms that are harvested off the maguey plant. They're served fried with blue corn mini tortillas, tamarind salsa, onions, and cilantro.  Damn, wish I had some now!

Location Info

Barrio Cafe

2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Barrio Queen Tequileria

7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
Sharon B. Salomon
Sharon B. Salomon

Come on, Silvana. Tell us how you really feel! And the food does indeed speak for itself.

Now Trending

From the Vault