Going by world record standards, it only takes four seconds to finish a taco.
But it takes more than mere seconds to make this deceptively simple tortilla wrapped around meat and crunchy salad. “People will just eat it and go, ‘oh, okay’,” says Rosio Sanchez.
“It’s a huge effort (to make Mexican food), and I think sometimes it gets lost.”
This sparked Sanchez’ decision to leave the kitchen of acclaimed restaurant Noma in 2015, after half a decade of working alongside chef Virgilio Martinez. “(Mexican) cuisine has a lot of flavour and colour to offer. I felt the need to do right by it,” says Sanchez.
The Mexican-American chef recalls growing up in the south side of Chicago, in the small town La Villita, where she would go on walks with her mother and buy freshly-made tortillas from the market around the corner.
“My favorite things to eat were tacos de lengua, vegetarian tortas (during my two-year vegetarian phase) and esquites (street corn),” says Sanchez.
The 33-year-old opened Hija de Sanchez, a taqueria in Copenhagen’s Torvehallerne Market in 2015. This was quickly followed by a second outlet in the city’s Meatpacking District a year later. Sanchez, a full service sit-down outfit, opened its doors in late 2018.
Head to her restaurants and you’ll find plenty of Mexican produce, alongside local ingredients like Danish cheeses and gooseberries. Her tacos, always freshly-made using good masa (dough made with maize flour), have been described by David Chang as “tremendous” on popular Netflix’ series Ugly Delicious.
Keyyes speaks to Sanchez about life, love, and the secret to making a good tortilla.
How has being your own business owner been so far?
So far, it’s great. I am learning a lot. I have had the support and trust of a lot of people. I’m happy to have such a strong team to execute the vision for Sanchez and Hija de Sanchez
What’s something that’s different now, compared to when you were still at Noma?
As a new business owner, you learn a lot of things. Everything from service style to management is different. You are involved in EVERYTHING!
Where do you find inspiration to keep your craft going?
I find inspiration from the ingredients we find around us. We try to source a lot of ingredients from Mexico, but it is not possible to ship everything across the ocean. I love to experiment while preserving the essence of Mexican food, and sometimes, we achieve that with ingredients found in Scandinavia.
Your biggest pet peeve in the kitchen?
An untidy workstation or kitchen top, and people with negative attitudes.
What’s the secret to making a good tortilla?
Good masa (dough made from maize flour). Unless you have great corn that you can freshly grind, no tortilla you make is going to be half as good.
We use nixtamalization (a preparation of maize) to do this, which is a mineralisation process that involves immersing the corn in an alkaline solution — usually lime water — for hours to make it easy to grind.
What’s the biggest no-no in making tortillas?
Flipping the tortilla when it’s not ready! The sides need to curl a bit before you can flip it.
What do you do to recharge?
Meditate in the morning, and I box three times a week. If I need a quick fix, I have a double cortado (espresso coffee).
What do you have for breakfast in the morning?
Usually yoghurt and some coffee.
Your idea of a perfect dinner date?
A nice bottle of wine, and a simple pasta prepared by my boyfriend.
What makes a good gift for someone you love?
A care package with homemade salsas, a package of great coffee beans or something to cook with, like great olive oil.
Which would you rather: A walk in the park, or sitting by the sea?
Sitting by the sea.
The best way to deal with challenges in life is to…
Embrace them with strength and integrity.
Tell us about your favourite mistake.
Accidentally burning koji (a sweet mold used to make pickles) at Noma, and then making my own Scandinavian mole from it!
The best cure for a broken heart?
A piece of advice you’ll give your 20-year-old self?
Don’t stop. Keep pushing because anything is possible so long as you put in the work.
What makes you happy?
Watching my colleagues grow in their roles, and I love it when we make tasty dishes.
What is your greatest fear?
What would you say is your philosophy to living life to the fullest?
I think it’s a combination of giving yourself time and taking each day as it comes. Invest in yourself, and people and things that actually matter to you. Meditation helps me bring things into perspective.