Cooking in Mexico is not just about combining ingredients. It is a culture, a celebration, an art and the heart of the family – and sometimes, a sacred feast for the gods.
For the food we serve at Café Frida, we explore the regions of our land; and we examine influences of pre-Columbian and foreign culinary customs throughout the centuries. Our aim is to expose the warmth, imagination, talent and heritage of Mexico.
In my search for new dishes, I have interviewed and worked with cooks from all over Mexico: and I clearly understand that Mexico itself means complexity, diversity and surrealism. Meanwhile, today’s food trends lean towards the healthy and the uncomplicated. It has been a long and hard process learning to balance what customers want to eat and pay with the quality and originality of the food.
The intense competition and demand for healthier food means we must raise the quality of flavors. (I confess I eat better Mexican food in New York than in Mexico these days. In Mexico, they tend to Frenchise” — try to be French — as they try to be sophisticated, but they tend to lose the authentic local flavors. At Café Frida we try to maintain them.)
We spend a tremendous amount of time preparing traditional and artisanal dishes. And we use whole and fresh ingredients to enhance the layers of flavors. Now days in New York, thanks to the demand, we can find a good variety of fresh imported and domestic ingredients, including Mexican style cheeses, crema, dry and fresh chiles, etc. We always try to use produce In its natural state, according to its availability.
All of our stocks, sauces and “Moles” are made daily from scratch – from grinding whole spices to roasting them in slow heat. We also have a girl hand-making the “corn masa” menu items: tortillas, quesadillas, empanadas, tacos. flautas, etc. And since refrigeration changes the flavors and consistency of foods, we sacrifice time for quality. For example, our guacamole appetizer Is always made to order.
As for the position of “Executive Chef,” the title is shared by three of us: Chef de Cuisine Miguel Espinoza, Assistant Chef Melissa Homann, and myself.
Our small Café Frida kitchen is staffed by the typical “cooking line,” but half of it is women – unusual for NY restaurants. (In Mexico, men don’t cook, and they find it very difficult to have a woman boss.) Mexican women’s palettes are instinctive. Since they were little girls, they learned to measure food quantities by feeling the ingredients in their hands. On the other hand, this innate skill makes consistency – a requirement in restaurants – harder for women. Men, meanwhile, are extremely strong and fast. In the beginning at Café Frida, women worked in the prep and arbsanal areas, and the guys in the line. Today, most of our kitchen staff can rotate in every station.
Because of our staff, our food and our philosophy, we are proudly a restaurant for the 21st century.
Founder, Cristina Castaneda
“Cafe Frida conjures Mexico where magic and joy is part of everyday life.
A ritual of flavors, aromas, colors and textures dedicated to the soul.
Our mission is to rescue and to explore one of the greatest culinary heritage of the world”