We meet up with luxe lonchera owners Pedro and Sarah Resendiz of Tamarindo Truck after their SoCo lunch stop one afternoon. Our humble chef was excited to share his thoughts on epazote, chiles and things that crack him up. Get to know our friends who can't sit still [Editor's Note: No, really. They love to travel and walk on the beach!] in this week's On the Line.
What are six words that describe your food?
Authentic, fresh, local, organic, truck-made, delicious.
What are eight words that describe you?
Passionate, professional, humble, dedicated, open-minded, family-oriented, ambitious, community-oriented.
Your best recent food find:
Recently, my wife and I traveled to Florence, Italy, and discovered this small, family-run trattoria. We stumbled upon it while walking down a little alley. I couldn't tell you how to get there or even the name. You could smell, feel and see the love that was put into every dish. My favorite was the pesto pasta; it changed how I see pestos forever. The flavor profiles were so amazing but simple at the same time, like nothing I had or have seen in the states since. It was three simple ingredients, but my mouth still waters thinking about it. There is really nothing better than food like that. Simple, tasteful and earthy. I cannot wait to go back. . . . I just hope I can find it!
Most undervalued ingredient:
Definitely epazote. It is an amazing Mexican herb that provides an indescribable punch to anything you pair it with. Not a spicy punch, per se, but it elevates the flavor of whatever you cook it with and adds a unique taste. We use it in a variety of our dishes, including our tamales and zucchini-flower quesadillas. It is really difficult to describe, and many of our customers have tried. I cannot tell you how many times we have shown them the leaves and let them smell it, and still, they cannot describe it. I really like moments like that, when grown adults discover something so simple and surprising.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
For me, food is love, and I promote that in my kitchen. I want my staff to feel connected to what we are cooking. If you work with people who are passionate about what they do, all the other components fall into place. We are professional, driven and proud of what we are serving our customers. A large part of that comes from our compassion and respect for our ingredients and one another. Respect makes for a great working environment.
One food you detest:
Okra! I don't know why . . . but it just gives me the creeps!
One food you can't live without:
Chiles are amazing products. You can pair them with almost anything, expensive or otherwise, and it will enhance the flavor. I remember when I was young and living in Mexico, and my family didn't always have money to spend on big-ticket items, especially proteins. But what I remember most is seeing my mother cook with all these amazing, colorful chiles, and it made me forget about what we did or didn't have. The flavors were there, and they were enough. I honestly couldn't cook . . . or, more important, eat without them.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Orange County's farmers' markets and local growers are great. [Editor's Note: He mentioned frequenting markets in San Clemente and Dana Point, as well as at SoCo/Costa Mesa.] The variety of products you can pick up that are grown right in this very state–and possibly even in your community–is truly wonderful. I have had such great experiences talking to the people who cultivate and put some serious love into what they are selling. It's great to get to know them and reinforce all the hard work they put into their craft. It reminds me of where I grew up and how people used to trade their goods. I hope people will support local farming when they can. You will taste the difference.
What fast food do you admit to eating, and what do you order?
In-N-Out! I order the No. 1 [hamburger] with fries and a chocolate shake. I like that In-N-Out uses fresh ingredients, but I also like the simpicity. It tastes great, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of fuss around it, which I can appreciate. I also think customer service is very reliable.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't stress! Cooking is supposed to be fun and fulfilling. If you take your time and make it with love, people will appreciate what you are cooking . . . even if it isn't the most dazzling meal. One of the most amazing things about food is that it can bring people together in a way that not many other things can. It really isn't about succeeding or failing. The more you cook, the easier it will become. Don't measure; just throw it all together and see what you can do! Practice makes perfect.
I really like to play pool at a place near my home. I'm not that great at it, but I try. I like to watch movies and football, both American and Mexican. I still like to cook for my friends and family outside of work . . . all while enjoying some (red) wine, of course.
Favorite celebrity chef:
My favorite celebrity chef is Rick Bayless. I think he is a great chef and an amazing person. He is one of the few celebrity chefs out there who actually takes the time to get to know the culture and the people behind his ingredients. He knows the traditions behind otherwise-simple Mexican ingredients and the significance around when and why they are cooked. You can see his passion for the food and the people, and that makes him that much more enjoyable to watch. I haven't had the opportunity to try his restaurant yet, but I have cooked several of his recipes, and they were all really delicious. His restaurant is at the top of my “must eat at” list.
Celebrity chef who should shut up.
I hate to bash anyone, but I really have had enough of Bobby Flay. I wasn't the biggest fan to begin with, and then I ate at one of his restaurants. It is more about his food than his persona, I guess. I use a lot of the same ingredients and flavor profiles as he does, and I was disappointed after trying his food. Maybe I had a bad experience, but it kills me to see Mexican ingredients underutilized.
Favorite music to cook by:
Mariachis! Enough said!
Best food city in America:
San Francisco is pretty amazing. You can eat the most expensive meal of your life, such as at the French Laundry; dine on some clam chowder in a bread bowl down at the wharf; or head over to North Beach for some great Italian. The city as a whole has a great vibe to it. It's so eclectic, from the food to the people, even from corner to corner. It's a great place to eat, especially if you're after a fresh, locally inspired culinary experience.
What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
I would like to see more farmers' markets, or an expansion of the existing ones. California has so many great products to offer, and it kills me when I see products in the supermarkets from places I couldn't even point to on a map. I really think that the more we can support local growers–and local everything, for that matter–the better off everything will be in the end. The bigger the demand, the more accessible and reasonably priced it will become. We will get there; I am sure of it.
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
I would love to see fewer fast-food establishments in Orange County. I am all for convenience, but it's getting a bit out of control around here. Food is supposed to take a little time. Sometimes I wonder if people really think about what they are sacrificing in exchange for the quick convenience of fast food.
I don't read a ton of cookbooks, but I do frequent many cooking blogs and websites–Rick Bayless, Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain are just a few I like to follow. The Internet is such a great resource for chefs.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
I love being active. One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike or go for a walk on the beach with my wife and dog, a rescue dog named Dexter. I live in San Clemente, and there is the most amazing path that runs miles in each direction, up and down the coast. It is a beautiful place to be, and I am grateful to live in such a great community.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
When my wife and I were in Greece, we ate at this restaurant that looked more like someone's basement. We walked in from the street and down a huge set of stairs to find a little old Greek man and a couple of his friends drinking wine out of a barrel. The only English words they knew were “Arnold Schwarzenegger,” which cracked us up! There were no menus or words exchanged between us. The oldest gentlemen who seemed to be in charge wrote a 2 on the table, and I nodded. For the next hour, he brought us dish after dish. Some of it we recognized; other items found us completely unaware of what we were eating. The wine was flowing right out of the barrel, and it was one of the best and strangest eating experiences I have ever had. I still don't know what the 2 meant!
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Breakfast is one of my favorite meals to cook. I love chilaquiles made with homemade, corn tortilla chips. I prefer green sauce, but sometimes, I use red. For such a simple dish, the flavors are so amazing.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Bottles of wine! You can never have one; it's bad luck!
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
We had a request for a torta without the bread. This might not seem weird for most people, especially with the bad rap carbs have gotten these days, but as a Mexican, to hear someone order a torta with no bread cracked me up. That's not a torta. The very definition of a torta is a Mexican sandwich on a very specific type of bread. I thought it was hysterical!