Could chef Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos be one of the most important chefs in the United States in the broad scene of Mexican cuisine? This last Monday and Tuesday, Avila gave a talk at the first ever Paralelo Norte in Monterrey, Mexico, a gastronomic conference hosted by 8 Monterrey-based chefs given the mission to correct the misinformed perception in Mexico and Stateside about northern Mexican cuisine. Over the course of stimulating talks, cooking demos, a 24 hour ritual cooking of a whole steer by chef Dante Neuquen (Neuquen) and many parties (chef events are a lot more fun in Mexico) chef Avila shared the stage and mezcal shots with some of the founding fathers of Modern Mexican cuisine: Guillermo Gonzalez (host chef, Pangea), Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Cosme), Benito Molina (Manzanilla), Federico Lopez (Taller Gourmet), Alejandro Ruiz (Casa Oaxaca) and just about every other major and legendary chef in Mexico.
Representing Mexican cuisine in the U.S. were chef Carlos Gaytan (Mexique) from Chicago, chef Aquiles Chavez (La Fisheria) from Houston (both are transplants from Mexico) and L.A.-born, Pico Rivera raised, chef Wes Avila who gave a talk entitled—Fine Dining Moves On, on how the techniques of fine dining can be more accessible to all, even at a food truck. Host chef Guillermo Gonzalez Berestain, who opened Pangea 16 years ago, was blown away this past June after his first taste of Guerrilla Tacos while on a restaurant tour of Los Angeles. “Have you heard of Guerrilla Tacos? —What Wes is doing there is amazing, you have to go”, as Gonzalez was overheard saying throughout the conference.
What Avila is doing is completely in line with what’s happening in Mexico’s fraternity of chefs both in Mexico and outside the country, using the local ingredients and tastes filtered through his technique and cultural experience. Olvera, who is opening his first U.S. based restaurant, Cosme, in just a matter weeks said, “New York has ingredients from all over the world, and the audience is different, so of course I will use what they have there; I’m not going there [NYC] to do what I do in Mexico City at Pujol.”
Avila was “very inspired by the brotherhood among the chefs in Monterrey.” Seeing a street food chef from Pico Rivera welcomed into the fold this past week only marks the beginning for the 2-year old Guerrilla Tacos, and if northern Mexico is to become the next big thing, then Los Angeles and the cuisine of Alta California is decidedly–north.