Q & A With John Sedlar, Part 2: Binge Eating in Tijuana, Horse Latitudes + The New Restaurant
In the first part of our interview with John Sedlar, the chef considered the relative absence of Latino chefs in this town, as well as the nature of his new menu (well, menus; there are three) at Rivera. In part two, Sedlar -- who is from Santa Fe, New Mexico; Rivera is both a family name and the chef's middle name -- continues the conversation. Turn the page for the second part of the interview, and check back later for Sedlar's recipe for Scallops Arabesque.
Squid Ink: Your new menu is like a narrative, like a flow chart. Is there a particular order?
John Sedlar: Yes. And it starts with the oldest dish, with Spain, and it goes from Spain to South America. You cross the Atlantic, the horse latitudes. It's a region in the middle of the Atlantic, near the doldrums, where the galleons would come to a stop; there was no wind, and they would languish and eventually the sailors would throw the horses overboard. They were just too heavy, they were holding the boats down. The horses would swim and eventually they would drown, or they'd catch a bit of wind and the horses would follow, whinnying, and supposedly when future sailors would come through those latitudes, they would hear the ghosts of those horses, and so they became the horse latitudes.
And then you come to the New World, to Samba [one of Rivera's menus] and taste some of the iconic dishes of Latin America, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Central America, Brazil and the favelas. It's very interesting as a chef, because it's a chronological story. It's a geographical story also, and as I introduced the menus, one at a time, then in the kitchen I'd smell different seasonings, different continents, and it would be unnatural to be smelling Arabic spices and then Mexican tortillas and Spanish chorizo, it was just too weird. It was too much of the world in one kitchen.
So then once you leave South America you come to Mexico. We have a lot of seafood-inspired dishes. I've been going to Tijuana a lot. I was first invited by [Street Gourmet's] Bill Esparza; he asked me down. I went on two trips down there. 24 restaurants, 36 hours.
SI: Oh my god.
JS: And everybody crawled back, they crawled. So I got very inspired.
SI: Well, you either get inspired or you die.