The first time I discovered Chef Aarón Sánchez, he was on the show Chopped, where he was one of the original seven judges from 2009-2017. As a big spice guy and “hothead,” I have always identified with him, and I enjoyed on Chopped when he said he liked some HEAT and a “kick” when the contestants created a dish. He would dig into their spicy food—not blinking or even breaking the smallest sweat—as the other judges practically melted, cried or struggled to eat just one tiny bite.
The thing that really stood out about him—the thing that I really liked and drew me to him as a judge—was that you could tell he genuinely cared about the show’s contestants. Yes, he was critical, and he gave his critiques, but they were always sound and instructive. He wasn’t there to be a successful know-it-all bully chef. He was there to be positive, constructive and serve as a mentor. You could also tell that he was never happy about sending a contestant home. Yes, it was part of the gig, but he was empathetic, understanding and he knew all too well that sometimes people get frazzled, overwhelmed and have an off day. So it came as no surprise to me when he left the Chopped kitchen and reappeared as a co-host and judge on the eighth season of MasterChef alongside the one-and-only man, myth and legend that is Gordon Ramsey.
Aarón Sánchez is many things. He is the Executive Chef and part-owner of the Mexican restaurant Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans, a celebrity chef, a restaurateur, a television personality and a philanthropist. He is also an author. Sánchez has written two cookbooks, and he has now written and released his memoir Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef.
This coming-of-age tale goes into great detail about his life, all his ups and downs, and the trials and tribulations that ultimately led him into the culinary world. From the guidance and influence of his mother as well as New Orleans Chef Paul Prudhomme. To examining the rapidly-changing New York City scene, to him ultimately becoming a star of Food Television.
Throughout his journey, Sánchez details the challenges he faced and the valuable lessons he learned from the adversity, all the while keeping a positive attitude as a representative and a role model for Latinos, about which he is very proud and honored.
Throughout the book, various recipes are also included, each representing a specific moment in time in the Chef’s life and what they mean and represent to him. I thought this was a really cool idea. Some of the Recipes include Zarela’s Pineapple-Ginger Chicken Wings with Soy-Pineapple Glaze; Tio Mario’s Famous Chili con Carne Colorado-style Burritos; Mixed Seafood Ceviche Negro with Citrus and Chiles, Bacalao-Stuffed Sweet Plantains with Crema Mexicana; and Seafood Stew with Coconut and Chipotle.
So if you are looking for a tasty culinary journey that has it’s share of the sweet as well as some spice, you can do no better and look no further than this book! I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it.
If you would like to dig a little deeper and go a little further in learning about Chef Aarón Sánchez, he has written two other books:
- Simple Food, Big Flavor: Unforgettable Mexican-Inspired Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours
- La Comida del Barrio: Latin-American Cooking in the U.S.A.
You can also check out his website where you can explore his event schedule, the Aarón Sánchez Scholarship Fund and his Mexican restaurant Johnny Sánchez. There are also recipes, a blog and information about the various people and companies he partners with.