Essential T: Short Rib Pipian Rojo Taco at the All-Star Chef Classic

Tolucan chef Pablo Salas makes the case for more Latin chefs at big-time food events

While some of the world’s biggest celebrity chefs have opened restaurants featuring Latin flavors in recent years—and Latin restaurant concepts are hotter than ever—many big-ticket food events overlook the Latino chefs themselves. The All-Star Chef Classic is one of the few local events that has made an effort to highlight Latino chefs as they did in their Noche de Masters, which was hosted by Guelaguetza, the legendary K-Town Oaxacan restaurant and James Beard Classics award recipient.

The team from Guelaguetza was joined by chef Josef Centeno (Orsa & Winston, Bar Ama) to represent L.A., but the majority of the chefs were international: Gaston Acurio (Astrid y Gaston, Peru), Diego Hernandez (Corazon de Tierra, Valle de Guadalupe), and Pablo Salas (Amaranta, Toluca).

Salas is a chef from Toluca in the State of Mexico, whose restaurant, Amaranta, is listed on the San Pellegrino Latin Americas 50 Best for its modern and rare take on the local cuisine. The ASCC issued tickets for each food item to ensure all attendees were able have a chance at all the plates and lessen the effectiveness of the current wave of food event gamers, but after I had Salas’s taco, I was desperately trying to find a way to trade someone for another plate. Yes, I considered scalping a ceviche ticket for the taco.

The taco plated by Salas was a pipian rojo—a member of the mole family that uses pumpkin seeds—with short ribs complemented by plantains and micro greens. The delicious, colorful pipian had just a touch of sweetness that cut through the savoriness of the short rib and was set on a blue corn tortilla.

Outstanding bites like this taco as well as the many plates from our local and out of town Latino chefs  reminded me that we need to see more of these chefs at our food events. It’s time for LA event curators to discover what the rest of the country already knows, that L.A. has the best Latin-American chefs in the country and Latin-American gastronomy needs more representation at our food events.