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Mexican Food: Kitchen Stars
Meet the chefs behind Guelaguetza and La Huasteca
Fernando Lopez Sr. arrived from Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1994. He began peddling his wafer-thin clayudas from a cart at 8th and Normandie. The cart led to a hole-in-the-wall called Guelaguetza, which grew into a minichain of three Oaxacan restaurants specializing in the region’s fantastical moles, tamales, and barbacoa. “From the moment he opened there were lines,” says daughter Bricia, 26. These days she and her brother, Fernando Jr., 23, are colonizing new territories. Last year they opened Huntington Park’s Cemitas y Clayudas Pal Cabron, which soon became a destination for hefty cemita sandwiches. Last spring they launched Natura Bar, which serves raspados (shaved ice) and fresh juices. Their next move: transforming Guelaguetza in Palms into Cocina Oaxaca, which will showcase contemporary Oaxacan cuisine.
Whether it’s the earthy, dark brown mole de los dioses (“mole of the gods”), with a blend of chocolate, serrano and puya chiles, or the mancha manteles, a fruity, fiercely spicy red mole made with pineapple and plantains, Rocio Camacho’s recipes offer her own take on pre-Columbian cuisine. After working at the acclaimed La Casita Mexicana in Bell, the 40-year-old Mixteca native became part owner of Moles La Tia in East L.A., where she won legions of fans for her complex assortment of moles. This year she pulled up stakes and moved to grander digs at La Huasteca in Lynwood’s Plaza Mexico mall. Ca-ma-cho learned to cook alongside her mother and grandmother. “It’s in my blood,” she says. “This is what I love.”