Aarón Sanchez, the chef and owner of Paladar on the Lower East Side, went up against Morimoto last year on Iron Chef, in the black sea-bass battle, which ended in a tie. Sanchez was psyched just to be matched up with the Japanese chef. “That guy was born filleting fish,” he said. This summer, Sanchez has been filming a new reality show for the Food Network, in which he and seven other chefs compete to become the next Iron Chef. Sanchez is the only New Yorker in contention, and we say: Represent.
Hi. Sorry—I’m eating a sandwich. I’m excited to talk to you. You got a lot going on! You got a lot going on, too. Like, lunch . . .
Heh. Yeah, it is pretty exciting over here. So, your last meal. Lay it on me. Well, the one place I would really love to be is sitting in my grandmother’s house in El Paso. She would obviously be alive, and she would make me her famous refried beans, her homemade chorizo, her tortillas—everything homemade, of course. And I would drink her overly sweet iced tea with it. I’m using the food as a vehicle, just to be together.
Did she live near you when you were a kid? I grew up in New York, but we would visit her in the summertime, which was great. When your grandmother’s food has the chance to sit —you know, she wasn’t in a hurry—it’s wonderful.
Did you cook with her? Yes, absolutely. We’d collaborate on a meal together. I have a lot of fond memories.
Would you have any sweets, or just the iced tea? Ha. She was not so big on dessert. Actually, she would sometimes have guava paste. We would eat that with cheese, like a real Spanish kind of thing.
Yum. Is that something she would make, or buy? She would buy it, or make it sometimes, but she did used to make her own cheese.
Really? What was that like? It was pretty amazing! She grew up on a cattle ranch—so, when you grow up on a cattle ranch, you gotta make everything.
What was her house like? It was, you know, very modest, very sweet and lived-in. She had a piano—that was a huge element of her house. She loved to play the piano.
Do your brothers cook too? Oh, yeah—everyone in my family cooks.
She must have been pretty happy with you becoming a chef.
Oh, yes. She was very proud of me.