Aside from being the world’s first tacorazzo, a James Beard-award winning writer, professional musician, and worldwide blogger (Street Gourmet LA), our own Bill Esparza has almost singelhandedly sparked an English-language reporting boom on modern-day Mexican food culture above and below the US-MX border. It all comes to an invigorating whole in his new book, L.A. Mexicano: Recipes, People & Places, where Esparza profiles many of the pioneers, innovative pocho chefs, and influencers that dominate Mexican cooking in the region and beyond — a book that he’s been writing for years, covering the Los Angeles Mexican food scene.
“I saw this as a sequel to what Gustavo (Arellano) did with Taco U.S.A,” says Esparza. He focused on some of the personalities that people already knew because of their impact to the development of Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles, and also the untold stories of local pioneers. “It really frames the whole scene not just the ones that mainstream media have covered, but some of the people they’ve overlooked and the stories they’ve overlooked as well.”
Out of the 40 individuals featured in Esparza’s book: three represent Orange County. Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, David Mora of Cask and Hammer and Alberto Banuelos of Burritos La Palma. “There are more Zacatecano restaurants in Orange County than there are in Los Angeles, we only have ONE that’s actually doing Zacatecas food," he says.
Esparza’s interest in Mexican cuisine didn't come from a formal education. It stemmed from childhood memories, on-the-road explorations and a passion for sharing his heritage with others through blogging. The kind words of readers inspired him to represent and tell the stories of Mexican immigrants who’ve come to Los Angeles for a better life and have triumphed to earn their piece of the American dream through hard work, taking risks as entrepreneurs in order to feed their families.
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Our Mexican-in-Chief said it best in the intro: “The pages here not only tell stories and recipes, but capture a moment in time before it disappears: an era in which the pioneers of a 'new' style of Mexican food from the last couple of decades are still cooking while newcomers are already creating the next evolution of Mexican food — far too much history has left us already, and L.A. Mexicano is arriving on the scene at the perfect time.”
Esparza will read from and sign his book at Alta Baja on Saturday, July 15th from 2 to 4 p.m., with our Mex-in-Chief introducing at his wifey's store. In addition, Chef Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria along with Burritos La Palma will serve samples from the book and David Mora of Cask and Hammer will pour beer samples. See you there!
Alta Baja Market, 201 E. 4th St., Santa Ana, (714) 783-BAJA; altabajamarket.com