Last season, Pati Jinich took us outside of her kitchen around Mexico to places like the oldest bar in Ensenada, Baja California; the legendary breakfast at Dona Esthela’s house, and Loreto fir one of Baja’s best-kept secrets, it’s almejas chocolates. Pati talks to KLCS about the upcoming season, her show’s aim, the dish that changed her career, her favorite Julia Child moment, and what she did the last time she was in Los Angeles.
I loved this past season where you travel and highlight chefs from various parts of Mexico. What’s the theme or aim with your show each season?
I like to highlight one region of Mexico each season. Each region’s cuisine is unique and there are so many stories to explore, so by focusing on one region I can bring out the cultural, historic, and culinary traditions that have influenced that region’s food. I could do a hundred more seasons of Pati’s Mexican Table, and I would not cover all the incredible things that Mexico has to offer.
In Season Eight, which will premiere in October, I explore Sinaloa. It’s an area not well known in the US, but it is Mexico’s bread basket. It is an area rich with amazing ingredients from chiles to seafood. And I met so many cooks and families with incredible stories to tell, and I’m honored to bring those narratives and recipes to everyone.
Do you have a favorite dish on the show?
Oh that’s a hard question, I have so many. But the dish that has had a huge influence on my career is my To Die For Ceviche. I was working at a think tank and was asked to write a paper about the democratic transitions of Mexico and Peru. I had been thinking about a career change for a while, and researching that paper, I ended up becoming fascinated with the true origins of ceviche. That’s when I realized it was time to take a leap and leave policy to pursue cooking. So, this ceviche is not only my favorite ceviche, but it is truly special to me.
What made you originally want to cook on TV back?
Even before that paper on Mexico and Peru, I had started cooking to connect with home. I had just moved to the U.S., and I was living in Texas and missing home. At the grocery store, I found myself talking to random people and asking them how they make their pozole, salsa, and tamales. Through these conversations, I connected with the Mexican community in the U.S., and I started eating and hearing stories from all over Mexico. That’s how I started eating my way back to Mexico.
So far everyone’s had a Julia Child story, do you have a Julia story?
I’m a huge fan of Julia. I’ve always respected how she shone a light on how the kitchen was the most noble of spaces, and that people with different views can sit down and learn from each other. But it is also Julia’s accessibility that I love. She would show the traditional method of a recipe, but she made sure that she was kind to people and opened the door for them to try things even if they didn’t have the specific ingredient or tool. With my recipes, I’m so grateful when people try a new food, even if they can’t find the exact ingredient like Queso Fresco but substitute it with feta. Julia’s kindness in explaining the recipe and her belief that anyone can adapt the recipe to fit their life influenced my own philosophy to never give orders but to share knowledge.
My favorite Julia story is her appearance on the David Letterman Show. She was going to make hamburgers, but the burners didn’t work. Instead of getting flustered, she just made the most fabulous steak tartare. For me, that was so inspirational. It showed how someone can easily adapt and make the best of every possible moment.
You’re on CreateTV and have been on KLCS’ Saturday afternoon cooking block. Do you get feedback that your show is a guilty pleasure in a noisy world?
I get the most wonderful emails and social media comments from people. In the last few years, I have noticed that more and more people email me saying the show is a nice “retreat” for them. And I really love to hear that the recipes and show bring back wonderful memories of their grandmother’s/mother’s cooking. Food is such a powerful way to connect with people, and it makes my day to hear from people who have connected with me and the show.
What’s the most frequent question you get? And what’s your answer to it?
I hear a lot from people who don’t like the taste of cilantro. They ask how to replace it in the recipes. I always tell them you can substitute any fresh green herb you enjoy. Good ones to try would be Italian flat-leaf parsley, chives, basil, or tarragon. If the cilantro is added at the end of cooking as a garnish, you can always set the herbs aside and let people who like cilantro sprinkle some onto his/her portion, and you can sprinkle your favorite herb on yours. I’m all for personalization.
You can tell that you really enjoy your job. What keeps it fun for you?
I love the people I work with. So many people on the production team first experienced Mexico through the show. It’s amazing to explore and see Mexico through their eyes. But of course, it is also the people I meet in Mexico. I’m endlessly fascinated by their stories and how they approach cooking. I’m always learning about new techniques, ingredients, or histories.
When you’re in L.A., do you have any favorite places to dine?
The last time I was in L.A., I was so lucky because I got to cook with some fans in their home. I made some of my recipes with them, and we got to eat some good Mexican home cooking. Recently, I also had my very first In-N-Out burger. I see why it’s such an institution around here.
It’s been nice to see your family on the show, you probably get a lot of feedback about your sons. Is there anything that’s next, or about your show you want to add?
Oh, I’m so lucky that my boys indulge me in my cooking and travel adventures! It’s been such a joy to see them grow up on the show. I look back at early episodes and can’t believe how little they were.
As for what’s next, we are already in pre-production for Season Nine. I will let you know what region of Mexico I will be headed to next. Follow along @patijinich on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And check out all of the recipes from past seasons on patijinich.com