Jonathan Waxman's early resume includes La Varenne culinary school in Paris, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and his own iconic Jams. That he has just been named "chef-in-residence" with Rosa Mexicano might seem unusual for two reasons. Firstly, "chef-in-residence" sounds like a private cook in some rich person's house, perhaps preparing chocolate pudding for the kids. Plus Waxman is known for gastronomic skills having little to do with tortillas.
But in fact his residency will be spent planning and presiding over Rosa Mexicano's Flavors of Mexico 2012 series, available at the dozen Rosas nationwide -- including our own Lincoln Road and Mary Brickell Village branches. And he does indeed have a soulful connection to Mexican cooking.
"Ever since I was a kid growing up in El Cerrito, California, Mexican has been my go-to comfort food," Waxman recalls. "It's what I cook for my family and it is a sensibility that has been a part of my cooking through every stage of my career."
The menus he has put together include dishes you have likely never before tried. Keep going for a glimpse of upcoming dishes, and to learn why you should know about this veteran chef.
Waxman is mostly known these days for Bravo's Top Chef Masters and as chef/owner of Barbuto in New York City. But back in the '80s he was one of the first American celebrity chefs due to Jams restaurant -- as well as to his lively lifestyle. The dashing chef was credited as one of the daddies of modern California cuisine -- meaning one of the first to dig into the dirt-and-seed end of the food chain. In between shifts, he would leave earth for sky and party with jet-setters in an elevated world of champagne and snapshots.
"Whoever said chefs in the 80's were like rock-and-roll stars," wrote food editor/historian Michael Batterberry, "had Jonathan in mind."
But this pre-Bourdain bad boy has always possessed undeniably tremendous skill and vision as well.
"Jonathan's culinary talent, integrity and personal passion for Mexican cooking and ingredients is a rare blend and a fresh perspective to bring to the table at Rosa Mexicano," says Rosa Mexicano President & CEO Howard Greenstone.
So you see, we're on the same page with this. Here's the 2012 Flavors of Mexico menu on tap, divided into the four seasons:
Winter (February/March): Eclectic Cuts
This blissfully short two-month season will feature pork cheek casserole and lamb neck enchiladas. If only they can come up with a veal chin, cow nose, and chicken eyes ... never mind.
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Spring (April): Mexican Passover
Nah, I'm just kidding about the Mexican Passover. Oh wait, no, I'm not. "Inspired by Mexico's rich Jewish history dating back to the Spanish Inquisition, Waxman will celebrate the fusion of cultures and current culinary trends in Mexico City with dishes such as Matzo Chilaquiles, Red Snapper Gefilte Fish, and Tecate Braised Brisket." Come to think of it, I've often said gefilte fish is underrepresented in Mexican restaurants.
Summer (June): Foods of Baja
"This summer celebration of Baja will prominently feature seafood and refreshing coastal drinks to keep palates cool from coast to coast." Translation: We haven't come up with our Foods of Baja menu yet, so we're stalling with this vague description.
Fall (October-November): Day of the Dead
"Get in the spirit of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1-2) with Waxman's personal take on traditional dishes, which will combine ancient mole and chile-laced recipes with the season's best produce." And if you're looking for a good mask to wear on All Saints or All Souls Day, or for that matter on Halloween, refer to the pork cheek/lamb neck/veal chin idea above.