The seasonings of the Mixteca region in Mexico are on the hunt for palates in New York , the largest city in the United States. This cosmopolitan metropolis is currently hosting an essential part of Oaxaca: its gastronomy.
The one in charge of the mission of bringing the recipes of her state across the border is chef Olga Cabrera , native of Huajuapan de León, a community in Oaxaca.
Olga traveled to New York to represent her state her region in the second edition of the Gastronomic Festival “Oaxaca in New York.”
During the event, which took place yesterday, Olga faced the challenge of delighting the guests with true Mixtec dishes.
Corn, beans, and chili are the main ingredients which bring to life Olga's creations; they are the essence behind dishes such as chileajo (pork in chili sauce), mole de guajes , chilate (a spicy beverage made with toasted corn, cocoa beans, and chili pepper) and tetelas (large corn tortillas filled with beans).
“Our gastronomy is one of the more authentic because it has ingredients native to the region, and is always based on the trilogy of corn, chili, and beans,” explains Olga, this woman with a big smile who has spent her life between stoves and clay. She says that ever since she was seven she learned to make tortillas and now, 40 years later, she continues cooking the receipes she inherited from her grandmother.
Mixtec mole and huachimole are some of the dishes she learned to cook in her house and that now, thanks to Olga, international chefs are cooking in New York.
In this international festival, Olga is the only chef representing Oaxaca . She's the one in charge of training the other international chefs so they become familiar with the cuisine of Huajuapan – which cannot be understood without the costeño chili pepper, according to Olga.
“We have many things to eat, to taste. The idea is conquering the palates of all,” she says.
Olga began her gastronomic adventure over 15 years ago in the capital of Oaxaca. She recounts singer Lila Downs once tried the dishes Olga was selling and, according to Olga, the singer was surprised to have found a place where she could eat the dishes of her region.
Months later, Lila returned searching for Olga and offered her house, close to the capital of the state, so Olga could open a restaurant there.
Since then, four years ago, Olga went from having a modest dinner to running a restaurant where she serves locals and tourists alike.