Meeting Roland Rubalcava for the first time was a bit nerve-wracking. It's not often we're asked to interview someone who's friends with El Jefe. Yet Roland was more unassuming and chill than many of our subjects, despite the constant ebb and flow of regulars filtering through the market. From his sister chiming in on answers to the diligent employee who convinced me to try the yummy cheesecake, they run quite the hospitable business [Editor's Note: Don't trust iPhone maps; Google all the way.].
Your earliest food memory:
I was about 6 years old and we were visiting family in Mexico. My aunt asked me how many tamales I would like, and I replied, "Two." She replies, "Everybody else is getting one.", and I said, "Tengo dos hambres. (I have two hungers.)"
Favorite meal growing up:
Mini chorizo and egg burritos.
You best recent food find:
The blackened rib eye morsels from Neiuport 17 in Tustin.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Manteca do Puerco. To me, manteca enhances food just as much as butter. Especially we have left after making Chicharrones.
What do you recommend for first-timers?
Diablo fries or our housemade chorizo tacos. They both pack a bunch of flavor.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Potential on becoming a powerhouse culinary scene, with very talented chefs pushing forward. At times force-feeding people to try higher quality dishes.
What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
The Tamarindo margarita at Javier's or anything Mr. Phelan makes me at Memphis, Santa Ana.
What inspired your version of the Sonoran dog?
Seeing a special on El Guero Canelo got me thinking how can I improve the quality of the Sonoran dog here in Orange County. And Gustavo challenging me to make one.
What is the difference between a quinceanera cake and a standard birthday cake?
Ususally quince cakes are 3 tiers or more and include a fountain and stairs. Birthday cakes are more basic and usually 1 single tier.
One food you can't live without:
Peanut butter. It is my kryptonite.
Where was your most recent meal?
At my store. A warm bolillo with a piece of queso fresco and jalapeno en vinagre.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't get disappointed if it doesn't come out the first time. Practice makes perfect.
What are you experimenting with in the kitchen?
Roasted cacao. I'm trying to make my own chocolate tablets.
Let's talk about your connection with La Reina markets.
It's my family. The owners are my uncles. I worked at their Orange location for about nine years.
Michael Doutt and Troy Furtura. Both are very talented, young chefs. I had the honor to work with them at Svelte and help cater Mike's wedding. They are both kind of insane on being perfectionists, but then again, who isn't?
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Brined grasshoppers or chile powder with dried worms mixed in it. I have also tried cow eye tacos once.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Chilaquiles and a glass of milk.
What does Gustavo like to eat?
Everything, but he always wants to try something new.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Make genitalia-shaped cake. Hell yes, we made it, "Customer is king!"
What's the secret to a great tortilla?
I can't say because it is a family secret. You just have to buy them from me.
Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make?
I would love to learn how to make yellow mole from Oaxaca and Mexican-style cheese.