Chefs Danny Espinoza and Andrew Gerson during one of their first Mash events together.
Brooklyn Brewery Chef Andrew Gerson spends lots of time on the road with our Mash Tour. In the Mash Files, we pass Chef the mic so he can check in with his experiences and stories from around the world. This month, we talked to him about cooking alongside his good friend, Chef Danny Espinoza.
L-R: Chef Andrew Gerson, Chicago artist JC Rivera, Chef Danny Espinoza, and Chef Jhoana Ruiz. Danny and Jhoana just tied the knot last month!
The Brooklyn Brewery Mash tour is all about community, collaboration and working with our friends. Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with Chef Daniel Espinoza on our Mash tour many times in Chicago and beyond, from our first partnership with the now-defunct Dinner Lab to our most recent trip. After many long dinners and later evenings I have gotten to know this “chollo” well, and most importantly have had the chance to savor his mind-blowing food.
Danny is one of the most accomplished chefs I have ever worked with, transforming his grandmother’s Michoacan cuisine into conceptual dishes that pay homage to both his Mexican culture and his fine dining roots. (Plus, the man can drink me under the table, which makes for enjoyable evenings.) We have spent years discussing his dream of opening Anomar, an elevated love letter to his grandmother and the food he grew up eating. Now, Anomar is slated for a fall opening. To see my friend and chef I admire achieving his dreams is something that fills me with pride, admiration, and often a full stomach.
I have watched Danny grow from a confident chef with great culinary skills to someone who can lead a kitchen while uniting traditional flavors and new ingredient combinations to create a cuisine all his own. Last year I got the chance to cook with Danny’s mother. We talked about her family’s long culinary history, and how a woman who spent her early years rolling tamales for the family business in Michoacan struggled to create a life for her children in Chicago.
The Espinoza family dinner table.
Over plump flavorful, and airy steamed rounds of Masa drenched in a pork salsa rosa– more reminiscent of gnocchi than their traditional stuffed counterparts– I learned about the difficulties of integrating into the societal fabric of Chicago, of raising kids in the tough and underserved neighborhood of Echo Park, and how proud a mother can be of her son’s achievements. Danny defied the odds of his rough-and-tumble community rising up the ranks in great restaurants. He developed his love and passion for food into a career that allows him to ultimately express himself and who he is. His food is real, steeped in tradition, and wholly Chicago.
And again: Danny can party.
In a city full of Latin charisma where it is hard to find a bad taco, Danny’s cuisine is a reflection of his family, his creativity and his desire to craft visually stunning dishes packed with awe inspiring flavors that are genuinely delicious. Chicago already knows Mexique, Rick Bayless, and others who have elevated Mexican cuisine, but now it has Daniel Espinoza to take it to a whole new level. I’m just glad he still has time to get a drink with me after service.