Late in the game, Chef Silvana was a wunderkind
Even at the beginning of her culinary career Chef wowed. “Early in culinary school, chef instructor Warren Blim came up to me and said that they had a chefs meeting and that they all thought that I was going to be a star. I laughed and didn’t think much of it. I was, after all, a little old to be in school – at 35 I wasn’t the oldest in my class, but I was definitely late to the game.”
Esparza cut her teeth in Tempe working at Sun Devil Stadium and Super Bowl (XXX)., where she was in charge of all of the food for VIPs. “Eventually I was running the show at Sun Devil Stadium, the University Club, and all of ASU (except student dining). It involved lots of creative and administrative focus.” But something was missing.
“I didn’t imagine I could really be good, unless I accomplished my longstanding goal of learning to cook in Mexico,” Esparza said, noting that she spent the the greater part of 2000 and 2001 backpacking across Mexico and learning from women who cooked for a living. “When I returned to Phoenix, I believe I was finally prepared to be good. I had knowledge and most importantly, passion and love.”
Her commitment to changing the “erroneous perception of Mexican food by most North Americans” became The Barrio Café. Here, you’re not going to find nuclear-yellow cheese spread over every dish. And you’re definitely not getting chips and salsa, instead you’ll be served a basket of sharable soft bread. Chef delivers a true take on Mexican cuisine and uses ingredients that are spotted in real Mexican fare.
One of her most lauded dishes is the Chiles en Nogada. The dish is comprised of a roasted poblano pepper that is filled with chicken, apple, pear, pecans and dried apricots. A delicate almond cream sauce is layered on top of the stuff chile and it is finished with the colors of the Mexican flag: cilantro, queso fresco and pomegranate seeds.