Cassia's pot au feu | Courtesy of Life & Thyme

Ep. 3, Mercado: Artisanal Street Food & L.A.'s Best Mole

On a bustling street corner in Downtown L.A., the tantalizing smell of freshly deep-fried chicharrón wafting in the air comes from a street vendor who is a master at the craft. Over at Grand Central Market, the family behind a long-standing shop has been dutifully providing Hispanic goods to the community for the last few decades.

In this episode, we get a glimpse into the lives of the two Mexican families behind these different business ventures, and explore what they have in common: hard work, dedication and hope.

At a time when an influx of immigrants fled from their countries for better labor opportunities in the United States, Celestino Lopez opened Chiles Secos, a stand in Grand Central Market that offered the community a familial sense of home. The late purveyor brought to L.A. imported Hispanic products, including mole pastes, dried chiles, spices, beans, and grains. The story of his entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance is told through his widow Antonia Lopez and granddaughter Claudia Armendariz. Armendariz now writes the next chapter in her family’s legacy, as she has taken it upon herself to keep Chiles Secos relevant as the Grand Central Market evolves into something different than what it was before.

On the other end of the spectrum, we learn about the life of the street vendor through Enrique Peralta, whose crispy pork rinds are among the best in the city. He works diligently to be a good role model to his children, and tries to positively contribute to society in any he can. While street vendors are working for their livelihood and to supplement their income, they also face painful hurdles due to pushback from police. Through their stories, both families show immigrants' ongoing struggle to make it in the land of opportunity.

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Alta California

A collective of culturally connected, distinguished chefs (including Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish, Wes Avila of Guerilla Tacos, Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, as well as Jorge Gaviria of corn purveyor, Masienda) work to preserve heritage and push forward the “Alta California” Mexican food movement. By celebrating those dishes and ingredients integral to Mexico's cuisine and its economy, a group of accomplished Mexican-American chefs are working to elevate not only the food, but what people of their heritage can achieve in the food business.

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Badmaash

Indian food has often been associated with stiff restaurants, all-you-can-eat buffets and heavily spiced, cream-based dishes. The Mahendro family (Anu, Pawan, Nakul and Arjun) immigrated to Los Angeles and found that they didn’t recognize any of the so-called Indian food available to them. Like carefully selected spices to a classic Indian dish, each family member contributes something special and significant to their restaurant Badmaash and to the city of L.A. Featured in the episode: Downtown L.A.’s Badmaash.

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Omotenashi

Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan, the couple behind Echo Park's Tsubaki, have always loved the culture of izakaya but found Los Angeles lacking in these Japanese taverns. Sonoko Sakai is a teacher with a passion for buckwheat and the near-sacred art of soba noodles, and Seiichi Yokota knows how to prepare and preserve fresh fish with a traditional Japanese technique never seen before in Los Angeles. Each aims to introduce Angelenos to the unique spirit of Japanese hospitality and the culture's deep culinary customs.

  • 2017-12-20T12:00:00-08:00
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Beyond Pho

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The Migrant Kitchen 1-Hour Special

Los Angeles’ booming food scene is being shaped by a new generation of chefs. Visit almost any kitchen in Los Angeles and it is likely you will find a migrant chef combining ethnic cuisines with new flavors and techniques. And often within the food, is a story of their migration.

“The politics of migration, the labor economy, all that drama plays out in the restaurants that we go to,” says journalist and author Rubén Martínez

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