From the type of chiles used to how long something boils, a chef’s many choices influence the taste of a savory Mexican dish. This month’s California Book Club pick, Natalia Molina’s A Place at the Nayarit, gives readers a glimpse into different kinds of choices made at her grandmother’s restaurant, the Nayarit, and the impact the place had on individuals and Los Angeles’s Echo Park community during the past century.
For a single immigrant woman, opening a restaurant in 1950s California was next to impossible, but Molina’s grandmother Doña Natalia Barraza made it happen—and spurred others to make their own Mexican restaurants.
Enjoying a meal at the Nayarit involved more than just eating food; guests developed real bonds. Under the watchful eye of Doña Natalia, immigrants caught up with news from their Mexican communities, conducted business meetings, and formed lasting friendships.
For after you finish A Place at the Nayarit, here are four podcasts that similarly provide an insider’s look into what goes on in a Mexican kitchen. From journalists to judges, chefs to restaurant owners, people from many backgrounds gather in these programs to discuss Mexican and Latino dishes.
Join us on Zoom on October 20 at 5 p.m. Pacific time, when Molina will join CBC host John Freeman and special guest Alex Espinoza to discuss A Place at the Nayarit. Please stop by the Alta Clubhouse to let us and your fellow book club members know your thoughts about the book. Register here for the event.
A warm mother-son duo, Zarela Martínez and Aarón Sánchez, bring listeners along as they explore the various regional ingredients of traditional Mexican cuisine. Martínez is the author of many cookbooks and owner of New York’s former Zarela. Sánchez is the owner of New Orleans’s Johnny Sánchez and a judge on the competitive cooking reality shows MasterChef and MasterChef Junior. Sharing tips and tricks as well as historical information, these two hosts spotlight special guests and restaurants and expand what “traditional” Mexican food means. A recent vibrant episode, for instance, focused on how eating insects—including crickets and insect caviar—can save the world and mused about whether the act could ever go from taboo to popular.
Anyone who can make a superb meal—whether that be on a street corner, in a food truck, in a neighborhood, or at a restaurant—is a barrio chef. In this limited series from 2020, journalist Mike Gonzalez revealed the hidden secrets of barrio chefs from all over the United States. Produced by the Hispanic Food Network, the podcast drew audiences closer to the history of specific plates and ingredients. In the final episode, Gonzalez spoke to Anna Salazar, the owner of Raul’s Cocina in Phoenix, one of the few vegan Mexican restaurants in the United States, and explored her take on what makes her vegan dishes taste authentic.
On this podcast, Los Angeles native Rob Gokee, author of Tacocity: Los Angeles Through the Eyes of a Tacophile, explored the diversity of the taqueria from the different angles chefs take toward them on his podcast. His last episode aired during the shutdown for the pandemic, when times were especially hard in the already challenging restaurant industry. The podcast remains a resource for listeners who want to step inside taco shops across the country and discover unique recipes.
Food anthropologist and avid traveler Rocio Carvajal enlightens audiences with a rich and researched look into Mexico’s gastronomic culture. Diverse guests discuss their restaurants, blogs, podcasts, and recipes, ensuring that a listener can learn something new in each episode. A deep analysis of Mexican food culture helps beginning and avid chefs alike. The focus of Carvajal’s knowledgeable episodes ranges from carnivals and Cinco de Mayo to a history of Mexican bakeries.