This is my first blog post, and how appropriate it is that Cinco de Mayo has just passed. Cinco de Mayo is a great Mexican-American tradition, a holiday that in the United States is much larger than it is in Mexico City.
Two weeks have passed since Cinco de Mayo, and I think of my childhood. I remember during school our entire class would join in a parade,together as one, to sing the Mexican National Anthem. The school would then have a ballet de folkorico presentation and a play reenacting the War of Puebla. We had a day unlike any other.
What I was most excited for was the meal that would bring my family of over 30 members together prepared by my grandmother Leanor. Over dinner, year after year, my family would discuss the way and the significance of beating the French, but first, we would all stand around watching the President’s talk on television, followed by a salute and another round of the national anthem.
It was this holiday where I had my first experience with Moles. I wanted to help Grandmother Leanor cook and put together her beautiful presentation of Mole Poblano, Pozole, and Chile en Nogada.
I enjoyed it not only because I was able to cook, but also because I could view our creations as art forms. I helped her with the metate to grind all of the corn and spices. My favorite, the Chile en Nogada, was the most traditional dish: a Pasilla chile stuffed with a blend of filet mignon, dried fruit, and walnuts. My grandmother’s tasted like nobody else’s.
In the preparation for the meal, I was happy to contribute the little that I could to make an enormous, delicious masterpiece that the whole family would enjoy.
Coming to the United States has made me realize how much the idea of Cinco de Mayo has shifted. In this country, margaritas to celebrate has become main stream. I love a good margarita, but I will never forget the true meaning that this holiday holds for me.
It is the holiday that inspired me to be a chef and inspired me to be the best I can be. It taught me how important family is in building character.
Most importantly, these values I learned will forever be incorporated into my work. I see all of my recipes as an art form that can bring hearts together.
By putting 100% into my Moles, I honor Grandmother Leanor and all that she has taught me, and hope to inspire others to do what they love whole-heartedly.
- Juan Mondragon is the chef and owner of.