The Blind Burro, A Chef’s Dream

Once in a while, you receive affirmation that your life’s work has made a difference in someone else’s life. When Rick Bayless and I decided to commit to having chefs’ trips for food professionals twelve years ago, our purpose was to share our love for Mexico, its people and its cuisine, and to encourage young chefs to explore the richness and diversity that make this cuisine so wonderful. I wanted to share this letter that we received from one of our chefs who has participated in two of our trips. Sara has just opened the Blind Burro in San Diego at 639 J St., specializing in Baja cuisine. We are so proud of her and appreciate the small part that we had in inspiring her to make her dream come true.

Marilyn,

I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for creating the outlet for the many chefs and food professionals who have attended your trips over the years to be exposed to and inspired by the Mexican culture and cuisine. Without the opportunity I jumped at 2 years ago, I would not be experiencing what I am right now. Although my passion for authentic Mexican food and its culture was initially inspired by Rick and his show, it has been elevated to a new level each time I come back from one of your trips. The knowledge, techniques, flavors, experiences and inspiration from the chefs, colleagues and culture around me when we are on the trips is priceless and has truly changed my life and who I am as a person.

I am writing this to you not even 24 hours after the most surreal experience of my career. I just spent the last 3 1/2 months developing a menu for a Baja inspired restaurant, Blind Burro, that we opened last night in downtown San Diego. I have never been prouder of anything I have accomplished in my career and it seems to be the consensus of the guests as well. We served an overwhelming number of people last night and it was as if we had been open for years. As I walked the dining room talking to guests, they commented that they had never seen anyone so excited about the food. I owe so much of that to you and everyone involved in my experiences over the years. From Rick to Roberto (Santibañez), Ricardo (Muñoz), Ana Elena (Martinez), all of my fellow chefs and everyone I have met along the way on this incredible journey.

I know that not everyone will enjoy the food, that is just the nature of the game…..but I know that I put my heart and soul into this project, because it has become so much a part of me. I have so much more to learn about the food and culture and it will become part of my life journey to dive deeper with every experience. I had the opportunity to work side by side with Javier Plascencia (Misión 19) last week and talk with Miguel Ángel (Guerrero Yaguës of La Querencia) at his museum exhibit and I feel like there are great things to come with them in the new year.

I just wanted you and the others to know how much I appreciate what you/they have done for me and I thank all of you!

Happiest of Holidays!

Sara Polczynski

To follow the Blind Burro you can like their page on Facebook. To read more about the Baja experience our chefs experienced in September, go here. Our next chefs’ trip will be to Mexico City and Puebla September 22-24, 2013.

Chefs’ Trip to Baja was a Blast!

Part One

Rick Bayless Baja Chefs' Trip

Rick Bayless and Richard James
Baja Chefs’ Trip

What a whirlwind chefs’ trip we had the end of September in Baja Norte, where in 5 days 16 food professionals coming from all across the country participated in 5 cooking classes with Chefs Rick Bayless and Ricardo Muñoz as well as with local chef Diego Hernández from Corazon de Tierra located in the center of the wine country of the Valle de Guadalupe. Javier González, director of the beautiful Culinary Arts School and his staff and students were extremely accommodating. We also had three extensive wine tastings where the owners treated us to some of their finest bottles. It was quite an honor.

Ricardo Muñoz

Ricardo Muñoz, Baja Chefs’ Trip

One day the group spent the morning on several boats off the coast of Ensenada viewing the mussel and oyster floating nurseries and enjoyed sampling them all.  And of course, we ate! From exquisite seafood tacos made from almost any living thing from the local water–shrimp, marlin, crab, abalone, octopus, sea snails, mussels and even uni, to some of Baja’s most adverturous fine dining restaurants.

We had dinner our first night at the highly acclaimed El Mision 19 where Chef Javier Plascencia prepared a special meal for us, then in Ensenada we ate at La Manzanilla, and although Chef Benito Molina was out of town, his wife Chef Solange visited with us. Probably the group’s favorite meal was at La Querencia where Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero, a hunter-gatherer-fisherman, farmer, and diver shared his passion for the local ingredients with those of us around the long table.

Caesar's Tijuana

Caesar’s Tijuana

And, of course, who can go to Tijuana without visiting Caesar’s where we watched a Caesar salad for over 20 people be tossed. Here is the recipe that they use.

Newer Version used at the Restaurant
Serves 2
1 head romaine lettuce
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tablespoon ground mustard
1 clove crushed garlic
coddled egg
1 lime, juiced
Fresh grown black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 sliced baguette oven baked garlic croutons
6 anchovy filets

Clean lettuce thoroughly and refrigerate until crispe, at least 1 hour or more. In a wooden bowl, combine olive oil, mustard, anchoives, garlic and part of the grated parmesan, whisk with a wooden paddle until it forms a paste.

Once cooled, crack the egg and whisk yolk into dressing until thoroughly blended. Add whole romaine lettuce leaves and gently roll them into the dressing. Serve on a platter and add the rest of the grated cheese, croutons, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

Culinary Art School

Culinary Art School, Tijuana

The following recipe was given to us by the granddaughter of either Alex or Caesar Cardini, who I met at the Culinary Art School where she is a student.

Original Caesar’s Salad
Serves 2

3 medium heads romaine lettuce, chilled, dry, crisp
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Grated parmesan cheese, 5 or 6 tablespoons
Croutons, about 1 cup
Salt
Garlic flavored olive oil, about 1/3 cup
Wine vinegar, 1 to 2 tablespoons
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 minute coddled egg
freshly ground pepper

Chefs Trip Baja 2012

Chefs Baja Norte 2012

You can see more pictures here.