Tacos trending in New Orleans?
Definitely, chef Aarón Sánchez says.
Host of the new Cooking Channel show “Taco Trip,” Sánchez heads to his part-time home, the Crescent City, for Tuesday’s episode, visiting taco trucks, taquerias and his new Poydras Street restaurant, Johnny Sánchez. He owns the 2-month-old eatery, and another location in Baltimore, with longtime friend and chef John Besh.
“People in New Orleans know good food, they know big flavor, they like the spice, they like the seasoning, so I think tacos fall in line with people’s love for big, bold flavors,” Sánchez said from New York, another of his homes near his third resturant, Paloma, in Stamford, Connecticut.
Sánchez regularly judges Food Network’s “Chopped” and has appeared on that network’s “Heat Seekers,” “Chef vs. City,” “Best Thing I Ever Ate” and “Next Iron Chef.”
He said the new series sprung from a special he worked on spotlighting tacos found in Denver, Los Angeles and New York.
“We sort of wanted to highlight and tell the story of the people making traditional tacos, but also those doing more modern approaches to it,” Sánchez said.
“It was really well-received. People seemed to enjoy it, so we’re like, ‘let’s do something where we can continue that and focus on some other cities.’”
The Hurricane Katrina factor has also figured into tacos’ growing popularity in the Big Easy, he said.
“Because of Katrina, and the rebuild of the city, there’s been a huge influx of Mexicans coming into town to help with construction and be a part of that. So now, when there’s a new influnce of people, like when the Vietnamese came to New Orleans in the ‘70s for the fishing industry, they brought their food,” Sánchez says. “And this is sort of what’s happening now with Mexicans, especially on the West Bank. Now you’re getting all these beautiful traditonal taquerias popping up all over, and it’s really great to see. And the ingredients are being easier to procure and all that good stuff.”
In the New Orleans episode, Sánchez and the film crew will stop at food truck Taceaux Loceaux for “Nola Mex” brisket tacos, La Cocinita’s mobile kitchen for Venezuelan flatbread tacos, Johnny Sánchez for squash blossom quesadillas, and at Pho Bistreaux for a Vietnamese twist on the Mexican specialty.
At each eatery, Sánchez will get in the kitchen to find out what’s cooking, get his hands in on the action, and sample the results.
Sánchez said he helped select each of the six cities on “Taco Trip’s” itinerary.
“I just wanted to have diversity, from the mom-and-pops super-traditional to more modern approaches using a lot of creative license,” he said. “It’s a fun format where you can see my personality, and interacting with people, and having a great time and also being inspired and learning.”