Hillary Eaton

Originally appeared on VICE

Don’t Call This Chef’s Food ‘Mexican’ Cuisine

When you look at a given country’s cuisine, its regional variations on ingredients, styles, cooking methods, and flavor profiles are as vast and varied as the people who make up its population. Cuisine is fluid and informed by the micro-cultures and experiences from which these people come. This is especially true when a cuisine is brought to a new place with a culture of its own. This new culture and its flavors and ingredients play a role in how that cuisine grows and changes, and also influences what gets left behind.

In the case of Mexican-American cuisine, this cultural exchange resulted in things like yellow cheese-topped enchilada platters—dishes that have become synonymous with Mexican cuisine in America but that are a far cry from what you would actually find south of the border.

Today, the newest evolution of Mexican cooking is vastly different from the combo platter or the inventively stylish plated renditions of traditional dishes. Noted early on by LA’s resident Mexican food expert Bill Esparza to describe the innovative cuisine of chefs such as Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos, Eduardo Ruiz of Corazón y Miel, Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish, and Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, this style of cooking was created by the collision of personal experience, traditional Mexican food, American comfort food, and the flavors and produce of California.