December 30, 2014 / 9:20 AM / 3 years ago

World Chefs: Besh, Sánchez bring Mexican flavors to New Orleans

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American celebrity chefs John Besh and Aarón Sánchez took their version of modern Mexican flavors to New Orleans when they opened a Johnny Sánchez restaurant in the city known for its Creole cuisine.

American chefs John Besh (L) and Aaron Sanchez pose in New York May 5, 2014, before the annual James Beard Foundation awards for top U.S. chefs and restaurants, in this handout photo provided by Howard Childs December 26, 2014. REUTERS/Howard Childs/Handout via Reuters

It is their second Johnny Sánchez eatery and features Sánchez’s twists on tacos and familiar Mexican fares using local produce and seafood procured by Besh.

The first Johnny Sánchez opened earlier this year at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore.

Besh, 46, who operates 10 restaurants, and Texas-born Sánchez, 38, who recently opened Paloma in Stamford, Connecticut, spoke to Reuters about their friendship and how they run their business.

Q: How was Johnny Sánchez conceived?

Besh: I met Aaron 20 some years ago in New Orleans. We started taco parties for fundraising. After a few of them, I said, “Hey this is a lot of fun. Why don’t we do something together?”

Q: What can one expect to eat there?

Sánchez: There are a lot of elements of Louisiana food that’s similar to Mexico communing around food. We are not doing one dish that’s Creole and another Mexican. We are taking a lot of classics and doing our twists to them. There is some authenticity behind it, but we are not doing fusion here.

Q: What is a representative dish?

Sánchez: A carnita taco is a traditional dish of the Yucatan. We are taking Yucatan flavors from another part of Mexico, which is achiote (seeds from a shrub). You add the crispy pork belly in the sauce and serve it with a pineapple salsa.

Q: Were there competing visions?

Besh: I‘m trying to refine things and he wants to leave things real and rustic. We have cooked together often enough so he knows where I‘m at and where I want to go with something. I trust him with these big bold flavors and ideas.

Q: How are you two running the second restaurant?

Besh: We own equal amounts of the business. I will be there a lot more often because it is right down the street from where I live. Aaron is here at least once a month. I will take more of a day-to-day role.

Sánchez: I am trying to move to New Orleans come springtime. I plan to split my time in New Orleans and the East Coast.

Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Richard Chang

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