by The Culinistas
As we mentioned, we heard you loud and clear wanting to see international dishes on our weekly menus — and that’s exactly what we’re rolling out, from Indian to Chinese to Mexican dishes.
We already introduced you to our Indian cuisine ambassador, Soni Sinha, and now it’s time to meet Francisco Reed heading up exploration into Mexico.
Growing up around his family’s Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, TX, Francisco’s first formative food experiences centered around the plancha, where fresh flour tortillas flipped seemingly endlessly. This is where Francisco learned to love the restaurant industry, and the importance of food and culture in immigrant communities as a means of economic independence.
To Francisco, the restaurant industry didn’t just feel like family, it was part of his family’s experience immigrating from Northern Mexico in the 70s.
After several years working as a cook throughout high school and college, Francisco moved to New York at the age of 19. He climbed the ranks at various Andrew Tarlow restaurants, eventually becoming the executive chef at Roman’s in Brooklyn.
Francisco has had several stints of international cooking experience, drawing inspiration from his surroundings in Rome, Naples and Mexico City. He currently works in Mexico City consulting for restaurants and exploring the vast culinary scene CDMX has to offer.
The Culinistas: What do you love most about cooking Mexican food?
Francisco Reed: I love that at its base level, it’s about comfort and feeding people you love. Cooking Italian food professionally for many years, the compliment I took to heart the most was when someone said I cooked like their nonna. Every time I would think of my abuela and all of the similarities between rustic Italian food and the food of my childhood. Pots of thick tomato sauce slowly simmering remind me of my family’s mole, which rarely left the stove.
TC: What’s a common misconception about Mexican food?
FR: That it’s too “spicy” or intense for many American diners. Most of the flavors are actually quite subtle and meant to be customizable. That’s why a good salsa bar at a taqueria seemingly has endless options, and at least three salsa heat levels.
TC: What’s your favorite Mexican dish you wish more people knew about?
FR: Chili Colorado is a dish I had often growing up. Compared to Texas-style chili, it has so much more depth of flavor and richness. It also makes a great enchilada filling.
TC: What are the key ingredients and techniques used when cooking Mexican food?
FR: Similar to a Spanish sofrito, I would say the base flavors of many Mexican dishes start with garlic, onion, tomato, and dried chilies. Properly toasting and soaking the chilies so they can break up and become part of the base is also very important.
TC: Do you have any tips/tricks for people just starting to learn about or cook Mexican dishes?
FR: Go out and eat more Mexican food! I can’t recommend this enough. Visit the places you don’t usually go to, order the things that you usually don’t order. Like many immigrant communities, Mexicans representing their culture through food is a way to support and learn more about the cuisine.
Is your favorite international dish missing from our menus? Tell us what you want to see next!