The Cape, a Thompson Hotel and Manta Executive Chef Enrique Olvera have invited guests to enjoy the upcoming Fourth of July weekend alongside Chef Carlos Salgado, one of Southern California’s preeminent culinary talents.
Salgado—a 2015 Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” 2016 James Beard Award semifinalist for “Best Chef: West,” and chef/owner of the critically acclaimed Taco María in Costa Mesa, CA—has partnered with The Cape’s dining team to co-host a series of Baja-inspired culinary events throughout the boutique Los Cabos resort. The two-day event includes an intimate cooking demo with Salgado; an oceanfront Tiki party on Monuments Beach, an exclusive, five-course tasting menu at Manta, and a limited-time selection of Taco María-inspired dishes on The Rooftop—the only rooftop lounge in Cabo San Lucas.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Chef Carlos before his trip to Cabo, and learned some of his earliest culinary memories, his favorite meal growing up (made by his mom – of course!), the inspiration behind his restaurant Taco Maria, and more.
Where are you from and where are you living now?
I was born and raised in Orange County, California. After 10 years in San Francisco, I came back home to open my first restaurant.
What are your earliest culinary memories?
My earliest culinary memories are pretty straightforward as I was born into a restaurant family. My parents had a small, modest Mexican restaurant here in Orange County (La Siesta) for over 30 years.
Favorite meal growing up?
Mom’s food of course! My mom makes me tinga de pollo sopes every year for my birthday. So good.
What was your inspiration behind your restaurant, Taco María?
It’s funny because my parents did not want me following along in the family business. After moving to San Francisco and being exposed to restaurant culture, I noticed I was developing nostalgia for that life centered on food. I became passionate about cooking and rediscovering my culture. The name, María, was inspired by every woman in my family. For generations, they have all been named María. Taco María is my way of honoring my heritage.
If you could have only three ingredients in your kitchen, what would they be?
Corn (maiz), rice, and beans. I love cooking with fresh beans in the summertime as they are widely available at local markets.
Favorite kitchen tool?
My favorite kitchen tool is a nutritional or culinary juicer because I think it’s a tool that allows us to extract very fresh concentrated flavors from ingredients that we can’t easily achieve otherwise.
Favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is the relationships with people: cooking alongside people; teaching, mentoring, and inspiring people towards a common goal; meeting those who grow and cultivate food, and being inspired by their enthusiasm; cooking for people who are enthusiastic about the unique flavors and responsible food at Taco María; and people who have a passion for social experiences and good food and drink.
What is the process like for creating a new menu item at your restaurant?
In part about reclaiming and rediscovering identity and culture, my menu is autobiographical and anthropological. This is what drives me to Enrique’s food as well as what other great chefs are doing in Mexico City. I’m inspired by serving our past, and foods that are culturally important to us, and finding a way to express them on the menu using the best available ingredients. We look to some specific memory of either a dish or a flavor of a particular ingredient (very market driven), and we look for a delicious and positive memory from our upbringing and try to honor it. Other times we focus on a specific dish or format (mole, empanada, tamal, etc.), and then we look for an ingredient that at the market at that moment that fits that form. We then do our best to give it a strongly traditional, comfortable core, adapted with something exciting, delicious, and seasonal or timely
Describe Cabo San Lucas in 3 words.
I’ve actually never been to Cabo San Lucas! It seems like an exciting and beautiful place. I’m very much looking forward to visiting. I have spent time in parts of Baja, and found it to be beautiful and mysterious with so much draw.
What are you most looking forward to during your culinary takeover at The Cape?
I’m looking forward to showing a different dialect of contemporary Mexican food. I’m inspired a lot by the cuisine of Baja & Mexico City (in large part by Chef Enrique’s food at Pujol) and am looking forward to seeing how people react to a different interpretation of Mexican cuisine than as we interpret here in southern California