Latin American Cuisine Takes Center Stage in 2015

Expect L.A. to be the heart of the action, even as prominent chefs open around the country

It was another amazing year on the local beat in 2014 as well as the national stage for Latin American cuisine, from the stampede of top chefs like New York’s Danny Bowien and Charleston’s Sean Brock developing Mexican-inspired concepts to the surge of regional Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles to the rise of Alta California cuisine by the likes of chefs Wes Avila, Carlos Salgado, and Eduardo Ruiz. Then there’s New York’s Cosme by Mexico’s most celebrated chef, Enrique Olvera—this is the most important thing that’s ever happened to Mexican cuisine in the United States.

Olvera isn’t the first prominent chef from Mexico to open stateside–Aquiles Chavez in Houston preceded him–but he’s the second and no doubt a pioneer of a major movement. Olvera will soon be joined by chef Javier Plascencia in San Diego, then the people behind Contramar will open in San Francisco; 2015 will likely see the first venture by a major player in Mexico’s fine dining scene opening in Los Angeles as well.

South American cuisine took a big loss in the L.A. dining scene with the ousting of chef Ricardo Zarate from his restaurants and the subsequent closures of Mo-Chica and Paiche, both of which will turn into different concepts. Brazil was in the news due to World Cup and the heavy media coverage of chef Alex Atala, but its cuisine still hasn’t caught on here in L.A. or on the celebrity-chef circuit.

Here in town, we can count on more Mexican food, from the hyper-regional Sinaloan seafood stands and trucks to upscale Mexican-American, and more tacos. L.A. will continue to be a mecca for taco lovers all over the U.S. with more styles of America’s favorite street food than anywhere else in the country.

Expect heavy growth in the mezcal sector as every bar in town is seeking to swoop up any brand they can get their hands on with modest progress toward bringing across more bacanora, raicilla and sotol.  Cachaça will stay relevant as the march toward the 2016 Olympics in Rio gets closer, but the public has yet to acquire a taste for it and few bartenders in town know what to do with the little cachaça we have.

Whatever happens to Latin American cuisine in 2015, you can count on finding about it first here at Los Angeles magazine, and consider yourself fortunate to be in L.A., Latin America’s culinary center in the U.S.