For 25 years, Chef Ivan Calderon, co-founder of Taco Mesa and Taco Rosa eateries, continues to prove himself more than just a chef and restaurateur. Always progressive with his endeavors in promoting “healthy and authentic" Mexican cuisine, Calderon has re-designed his Taco Mesa Orange location as a non-GMO tortilleria and cafe.
“I had been wanting to make my own tortillas for some time,” Calderon says. “Most of the tortillas that you find, even if they say organic. have some sort of preservative added to extend the shelf-life. My goal was to produce tortillas like we do bread — fresh, daily, free of preservatives and free from exposure to chemicals.”
Also challenging industrial agriculture and the way we source corn is Masienda, leading importers and purveyors of heirloom Latin ingredients and non-GMO maize. But unlike Masienda, Calderon has chosen to have a smaller carbon footprint — by sourcing his corn from Rovey Specialty Grains in Illinois. Established in 2009, Rovey Specialty Grains is a byproduct of Rovey Seed Company who have been selling to the tortilla and tortilla chip industry for over 40 years.
The newly opened Taco Mesa comes with an Alta Cocina look and introduces new offerings such as the organic grab-and-go salad bar featuring aquaponic greens sourced from Chef Adam Navidi of Future Food Farms and produce from Black Sheep Farms. “I try to buy local as much as possible so we support our local economy as well as our farmers,” Calderon says. Hot entrees with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options are also available at the bar and the classic menu remains intact with favorites like the blackened calamari tacos and stuffed jalapenos.
In addition to the tortilleria, Calderon features his Modbar espresso station and cafe that serves direct trade Stumptown coffee and organic teas alongside his pasteleria of fresh-baked confections. Enjoy a cafe de olla with a generous slice of tres leches cake baked fresh by pastry chef Alvaro Hachac.
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The chef is also responsible for conceptualizing the art on the walls, and had them commissioned by local artists, including the mural of his late mother done by artist Paul Rivera. The mural takes up an entire wall of the new restaurant, a majestic vision of his mother as it reflects a saint-like figure surrounded by corn.
Calderon is excited to be able to offer consumers locally sourced non-GMO corn and hopes to become a wholesale supplier to retailers and fellow restaurateurs.Sitting at a table beside the large painting, he emphasizes the importance of the crop, “50 percent of our food is corn-based, our enchiladas, tacos, tamales, tlacoyos, peneques and sopes,” he says. “With non-GMO corn we’re taking our food to the next level and we want to be the initiators for that here in Orange County.”
Taco Mesa Tortilleria Organica & Cafe, 3533 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 633-3922; www.tacomesa.com