Chef Spotlight: From Texas to New York, 9 Mexican chefs to watch

In day four of our countdown to Mexican Independence Day (we’ve covered our favorite healthy Mexican makeovers, bloggers and traditional recipes), we’re celebrating our favorite Mexican chefs. From hot Food Network personalities, chefs preserving Mexican history or chefs making a name for themselves by making outstanding Italian food, we’re taking a moment to recognize 10 Mexican culinary giants making Mexican food and Mexican heritage something to respected, admired and appreciated.

Aaron Sanchez

You know him best from his presence on a variety of popular Food Network shows including “Chef vs. City” and “Chopped,” but two-time cookbook author is making sure Nuevo Latino cuisine stays on the map with his innovative, fresh take on classic Mexican dishes. Read his NBC Latino feature here.

Iliana de la Vega

Every cuisine needs a champion on its behalf and under Chef Iliana de la Vega’s tutelage at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), a new generation of culinary students are well-versed in traditional Mexican technique and cuisine. Read her NBC Latino feature here.

Roberto Santibanez

If there’s one man who might be considered responsible for making Mexican food trendy in New York City, it’s Roberto Santibanez. The Mexico City native gave mainstay Mexican restaurant chain Rosa Mexicana its contemporary vision and now with several concept torta restaurants throughout the country and two forward-thinking Mexican fonda restaurants in New York City, it’s clear that the restaurateur has made a place for himself in culinary history. Read his NBC Latino feature here. 

Julieta Ballesteros

It takes a lot of courage to eek it out in a battle on Food Network’s “Iron Chef,” but Julieta Ballesteros is no stranger to fierce competition. Praised as one of New York City’s best chefs, Ballesteros has carved out a respected reputation as a Mexican culinary genius whose French flair makes her a peer alongside the world’s best chefs. Read her NBC Latino feature here.

Julian Medina

With four pan-Latin restaurants to his credit, Chef Julian Medina has set new standards with his progressive, yet approachable attitude towards food. From his diner-style concept restaurant, Coppelia to trendy tacos at Toloache, Medina has firmly made his mark on the crowded dining scene in New York City. Read his NBC Latino feature here.

Matt Molina

James Beard award finalist Matt Molina uses his Latino sensibility – love of fresh ingredients and respect for time-honored technique – to transform Italian dining. As the executive chef at renowned Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, Molina is a rising star with a bright future – and a great palate. Read his NBC Latino feature here.

Silvana Salcido Esparza

Esparza makes no apologies for her Mexican food, cooked up with style, flair and a bad-ass attitude (she describes it as “comida chingona”). The winner of many local awards in her adopted home state of Arizona, Esparza was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Award for “Best Chef Southwest” earlier this year. Read her NBC Latino feature here.

Johnny Hernandez

Chef Johnny Hernandez is a born and bred Texan and his food – soulful and heart-warming — represents the best of Tejano cooking. With his deep-rooted love of the Lone State (he grew up in his father’s San Antonio restaurant and has remained committed to staying in the area with his restaurants and catering business), Hernandez has become an authority on Tex-Mex food and is considered one of the very best Mexican cuisine chefs in the country. Read his NBC Latino feature here.

Chef Hugo Ortega

If there’s one thing to know about Hugo Ortega, it’s that he has a sincere love and appreciation for the traditional foods he grew up with in his home state of Puebla, Mexico. With a highly successful Mexican restaurant and a new cookbook (“Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico”), his commitment to the cuisine is clear: this is a man who wants to share his passion for the traditional cuisine of a country he loves dearly. Read his NBC Latino feature here.

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