On the Line: Florencia Arriaga of Gringo Bandito and Branden LaGrone of Slidebar

I’m shaking things up with this week’s On the Line. Gringo Bandito proved they pair well with many eats, so I thought it’d be fun to pair them with recent collaborator, Slidebar. Florencia oversees kitchen operations at Gringo Bandito, while Branden helms his DTF kitchen.

Branden: Remind me of the collaboration dish you had with Gringo Bandito last month.
We took two of our top selling entrees, the Cali Burrito and our Street Tacos, and brought them into one with the addition of Gringo Bandito’s red hot sauce. We take our asada and mix in Gringo Bandito and our house marinade. Add french fries, Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, avocado and sour cream to the mix on top of hand-pressed tortillas, and you’ve got our collaboration with Gringo Bandito.

Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
Branden LaGrone:
They must be respectful and know his role in the kitchen.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
Florencia Arriaga: The stereotype that the best chefs are academically trained is not true. My culinary education comes from ancestral traditions and stories. My talent was taught as an art and a necessity.
B.L.: Our industry gets caught up with following a trend and sometimes loses focus. Everyone wants to be popular and profitable, but if you aren’t making something you would enjoy eating yourself, what’s the point?

You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
F.A.: Chilaquiles, of course! Accompanied with two scrambled eggs that are topped with the array of Gringo Bandito hot sauce. On very special days, all the sauces are used!
B.L.: If I’m at the restaurant, breakfast burritos. It’s quick and easy. If I’m at home, chilaquilles.

Most undervalued ingredient:
F.A.: Love
B.L.: Cilantro.

Florencia: Tell me about the Annual Private Reserve sauce.
The private reserve sauce is an annual experiment that is exclusive and scrumptious. It’s incredibly satisfying to see that the efforts of exploring peppers and herbs from all seasons and parts of the world are enjoyed with so much love. This recipe is truly magical because it reaches every corner of the world.

Branden: Tell me about how you worked your way though the ranks at Slidebar.
While finishing up at Le Cordon Bleu for my Associates (degree), I started as a prep cook and a busser at The Slidebar. Then a couple of months later became a line cook. Three months after that, I became Sous chef and started my Bachelor’s degree in Restaurant Management. I received my Bachelor’s degree in less than two years, and here I am, Executive Chef.

Florencia: Tell me about how your involvement with Gringo Bandito came about:
Dexter has been a hot sauce and Mexican food lover forever. He admired my cuisine and the passion I had for creating delicious meals, so we began collaborating on recipes for hot sauces. The mission was to make the best hot sauce in the whole world. Since those kitchen conversations, we have come an incredible way. We started with the Original, and have now grown to have many flavors.

The feedback is fantastic! We are always encouraged to continue as a team to create the best hot sauce ever. I’m so happy and proud that Dexter saw my passion for this type of art, and that our collaborations have been so successful. As the head chef, I hand-pick all ingredients, materials and oversee all parts of the process. This type of dedication is what makes Gringo Bandito successful. I’m eternally grateful to him for the opportunity, and am excited about our future.

What did you learn from Slidebar that you wish was taught in culinary school, if anything?
Being there for over three years now, I’d say they need to teach you to be prepared for anything. Catering to 600+ people offsite, knowing the financials, putting in orders, scheduling, and the list goes on. They need to teach the importance of what it takes to run a kitchen from open to close, month to month, because you never know when you’ll be given the opportunity to run it.

What is your guilty pleasure food?
F.A.: Tortilla chips topped with refried beans and Gringo Bandito generously added.
B.L.: Twizzlers.

Where did you grow up, and where’s home these days?
B.L.: Orange County my whole life. Fullerton is home.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
F.A.: The United States has been my home longer than my native land. I came to work in the United States when I was 19 years old, looking for a brighter future. I was only able to study until I was six years old, because working on my family’s farm was necessary. Thanks to my hard work and the opportunities in the US, I have been blessed to have all three of my children receive a college education.
B.L.: I was a Union Carpenter for four years before changing my career into Culinary. Now carpentry is just a hobby of mine.

Your favorite childhood memory:
B.L.: Being in bands with my best friends. I played in the Worship team every week back in high school, and to play in front of all your classmates was something else.

Hardest life lesson you’ve learned:
B.L.: Taking a pay cut to pursue a new career was probably the hardest thing. I worked my way up to a Journeyman carpenter when I was in construction, and leaving that to start at the bottom as a prep cook was extremely difficult but necessary if I wanted to pursue my dream of owning a restaurant. I needed to know every aspect of the kitchen, and being there for over three years has definitely taught me that.

Florencia: I heard you used to be a nanny for Dexter. Any stories you’re allowed to share?
When I applied to the agency for nanny work, I told them that I didn’t want to work for any famous people or celebrities because, in my experience, they have too much fun! And so after working with the Holland family for a month, his daughter asked me if I knew who her dad was. I responded that yes, I knew! He was Dexter Holland. She said, “Yeah, but do you know what he does?” My response was, “Yes. He is a dad and flies planes.” She told me, “My dad is a rock star!” I laughed and said, “Okay.”

But as the time passed, Dexter would tell me more and more about his career and life. Dexter has proven to be more than a crazy rocker; he is a great guy! I would have never thought to be a fan of rock music, but I really enjoy his performances. He is a dedicated man who is passionate about his work, and has truly been a blessing to work with. We met each other in 1999, and he continues to inspire me today.

Last thing you looked up/searched online:
The online shop on Tankfarm & Co. website.

What profession would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?
B.L.: Guitar building would be an awesome job to have.

Learn more about Gringo Bandito hot sauce at www.gringobandito.com.

The Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen is located at 122 E Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton, (714) 871-2233; www.slidebarfullerton.com.

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