A Scandinavian food invasion of Mexico
Dear Mexican: Sooooo, your boy René Redzepi is moving to Mexico. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
Dear Loco: Unless the acclaimed Danish chef behind the world-acclaimed Noma is into tamborazo and Antonio Aguilar, he ain’t my compa. But the Scandinavian very well could be nowadays: it was recently announced that he’s opening a pop-up Mexican restaurant in Yucatán, charging an extraordinary $600 a head. So much to unpack here, ¿qué no? Redzepi is the latest gabacho to fall in love with Mexican food — and the latest to gentrify and exotify it. He’s the latest to get media attention for his love of Mexican food, while Mexican chefs get ignored — when will the culinary press go on late-night pho runs with Carlos Salgado of Orange County’s Taco Maria, which is only the most important Mexican-American restaurant in the United States? The gringo is even bringing his entire staff from Europe to man the restaurant. Local talent? According to The New York Times, the Mexi Noma will employ “four local cooks to produce fresh tortillas” — an attempt at “authenticity” that goes back to the earliest days of Mexican food in the United States, and is as trite an ethnic marker as a shamrock tattoo on an Irish girl’s nalga.
That’s the Zapata in me. The Benito Juarez in me, however, takes the longer view: another gabacho Reconquista’d by our cuisine. Redzepi has been promising to anyone who’ll listen that he wanted to open a restaurant in Mexico, so entranced he is by nuestra cultura. And to his credit, Redzepi’s partner in the Mexican safari is Rocio Sanchez, Noma’s longtime pastry chef who runs a bonafide taquería in Copenhagen and is the child of Mexican immigrants. Sanchez was raised in Chicago’s Little Village barrio, which gives her more cred than Rick Bayless by a Mayan minute. So let Redzepi and Sanchez do their cosa! If you really want to yell at someone for Noma Mexico’s appropriation, yell at foodies and food writers, who will always focus more on gabachos doing Mexican food than Mexicans doing Mexican food — and guess what your letter did?
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