“A few years ago, if you’d asked me where I’m from, I would have gotten a bit defensive,” Rosio Sánchez revealed during a talk at the Mad Symposium last year. “I didn’t know what to say about myself.” But things have changed a lot in these last few years.
Born in Chicago, the daughter of two Mexican immigrants grew up in La Villita, a primarily Mexican, working-class neighbourhood. “My upbringing was very modest, but one thing we always had was tortillas to eat everything with,” she tells SBS Food.
She started her culinary training at 19 and made her way into the kitchens of Wd~50 in New York and Noma in Copenhagen. At Noma, she was the head pastry chef and then head of research. “I could have stayed at Noma forever, I found it so inspiring. There was always that push to do something more and challenge yourself,” she said during the Mad Symposium.
But after five years, she left to open a tiny taqueria, Hija de Sanchez. “I was attracted to the idea of showing my respect and appreciation for Mexican flavours. Growing up as a child of immigrants, there’s a bit of a cloud of shame about the food we’re doing not being worth paying real money for. I dreamed of making a bit of a difference in Europe,” she said during her talk.
While Sánchez usually favours local ingredients, she gets her corn sent from Oaxaca to make the masa (dough) for her tortilla. The taco selection changes everyday, think beef tongue (her favourite when growing up), crispy fish skin with gooseberry salsa or queso fresco.
She now has two taquerias, and at the end of 2017, she opened the more formal, but still-casual restaurant Sanchez. “Mexican cuisine is so much more beyond tacos, although tacos are delicious. It is a complex cuisine that is based on hours of preparation with a lot of history,” she tells SBS Food.
At Sanchez, every dish is infused with Mexican flavours, but she doesn’t claim to do authentic Mexican cuisine. The menu boasts Mexican classics like tuna tostada, lamb barbacoa, and pork chicharrón, but also creative dishes like a celeriac al pastor and oysters with habanero and sea buckthorn (a sour berry found in Denmark). Customers also love the churro, which has been revisited as on open sandwich.
“It’s not authentic Mexican food, it’s not Nordic or fusion, if we still use that word. It’s food that reflects the experience of my team and me,” she explained during her talk.
She doesn’t shy away from using both Mexican and Danish ingredients, and loves to work with vegetables.
“Mexican cuisine is so much more beyond tacos, although tacos are delicious. It is a complex cuisine that is based on hours of preparation with a lot of history.”
“There is a lot of pork and meat used in Mexican cooking – in particular, cooking with animal fats. I think it's a rewarding challenge when we can make something that still has a soulful feeling to it without using meat,” she tells SBS Food.
Rosio Sánchez at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
You don’t have to travel all the way to Copenhagen to taste Sánchez’s take on Mexican cuisine. She’ll take over the kitchen of beloved Mamasita on 10 March to cook a six-course dinner during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
While Sánchez hasn’t confirmed the full menu, she told us that she’s thinking of making her octopus tostada with cured egg yolk salsa, oysters with habanero and sea buckthorn, tamales, as well as the churro open sandwich. “I think the cured egg yolk salsa is great, because it hits all the points in your palate: sour, salty, spicy and it has a great texture,” she says.
She’ll also be giving a MasterClass at the House of Food and Wine on 11 March where she’ll prepare mole manchamanteles (which is made with fruits), tamales, a lemon and sea buckthorn paleta with habanero glaze and her octopus tostada.
10 March, Level 1, 11 Collins Street, Melbourne
11 March, The Coopers Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
This classic Mexican breakfast dish is a must for all lovers of spice in the morning.
Varieties of this dish can be found in every market place throughout Mexico City. It’s simple but full of Mexican flavours, and ours is made even more special with the use of fresh Australian nopales (cactus).