Local Chefs Honored With SVREP’s ‘Premio Cua’ Award

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project – SVREP – held it’s annual fundraiser, Sabor de las Americas/Taste of the Americas last week at the L.A. River Center and Gardens in Northeast Los Angeles.

“This event raises funds for the work that SVREP does all year long to increase Latino voter participation and “Get out the vote,” said Antonio Gonzalez, SVREP president. “ On this day, we also proudly celebrate the talented chefs in our community who honor culture and heritage by advancing our historic cuisine.”

This year, the “Premio Cua” award was presented to Chef Elsa Arellano, co-owner of Chiguacle Sabor Ancestral de Mexico on Olvera Street, and to Chefs Alejandro De Leon & Marcos A. Rodriguez of Gloria’s Cafe HP in Highland Park.

The winning chefs served a four-course gourmet tasting menu for the SVREP fundraiser that included a nopales medley, empanadas, mole, cochinita pibil wrapped in banana leaves, gourmet tamales and mezcal infused plaintains.

Chef Elsa Arellano (right) and husband Alonso honored for outstanding food served at their restaurant “Chiguacle.” (Photo by Diana Martinez)

Chef Elsa Arellano (right) and husband Alonso honored for outstanding food served at their restaurant “Chiguacle.” (Photo by Diana Martinez)

All three of the award-recipients share similar life experiences as immigrants who are not only accomplished chefs but also proud owners of their restaurants.

Chef Elsa, known for building on Southern Mexico’s cuisine by using a “fusion” of locally sourced whole food, is originally from San Ildefonso, a modest yet picturesque town in El Salvador. She grew up in a family of innovators where everyone pitched in to support the household. There was no electricity, but her grandmother had a hand-cranked molino, the only one for miles, and their home was where everyone came to buy their masa.

Young Elsa learned much from her grandmother about food and how to be an entrepreneur as she and the other kids in the family were sent to sell their goods in town. With early lessons to work hard to survive, Chef Elsa came to the United States at the age of 14 to seek a better life. She is also co-owner of Centro Botanero Mazatlan in Sun Valley.

Chef “Alex,” originally from Chiapas, Mexico, said he is “passionate” about food and pushing to “try something new.” He was inspired by his mother who he’d watch cook with ingredients that included native herbs from his province. After arriving in the United States twenty years ago, Alex built on his early lessons by working in various positions at restaurants, including a long stint at a French restaurant where he gathered skills in pastry making as well as the art of the cuisine. “Communication,” he said, is the key to a successful kitchen. Chef Alex and Chef Marcos also own Semi-Tropic in Echo Park.

The stories of these acclaimed chefs support the findings of national restaurant association industry wage and labor research.

Twenty-three percent of those employed at restaurants in the United States are foreign born, 25 percent are restaurant managers, and immigrants are more likely to be restaurant owners. Twenty-nine percent of businesses in the restaurant/hotel sector are immigrant owned.

Elected officials who spoke at SVREP Sabor de las Americas included State Controller Betty Yee, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo.

Yee spoke of her immigrant parents: “In this political climate it is more important than ever for all of us to work together. My parents are immigrants from China who worked very hard and had a daughter who would become the State Controller.” Growing up, Yee said she handled the books for her family’s neighborhood and dry cleaning business.

SVREP founded in 1974, is the largest and oldest non-partisan Latino voter participation organization in the United States and has registered millions of Latino voters, trained and encouraged thousands of individuals to volunteer in their communities. For more information visit, www.svrep.org.



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