SABOR: Chef Julian Medina Shares His Love of Fiery, Fun Flavors
Julian Medina, chef/owner of Toloache Bistro, Yerba Buena, Tolache Taqueria and Coppelia, was born to construct sophisticated Latin and international cuisine. For more than 20 years, Chef Julian has been crafting pan-Latin plates laden with deep flavors and intricate techniques.
Since the age of 17, Chef Julian has been devising delicious meals. However, his career began far before he trained professionally at Hacienda de Los Morales and Les Celebrites in Mexico City's Hotel Nikko.
When he was a young boy who observed his father and grandfather move with intention around their family kitchen, that's when he began his vocation. He then slowly tackled simple recipes at home, and in a matter of a few short years, he learned the basics of French cuisine and fine dining, and traveled to New York City to work alongside Chef Richard Sandoval as the Chef de Cuisine at Maya.
"I was never interested in doing anything else. Food to me was kind of a passion, and that passion never left me. It's something that I was very interested in at the time, and it's something that still interests me. I was actually very lucky to pick a career that I enjoyed," Chef Julian told Latin Post. "I was in charge of a kitchen after I moved here, to New York, at the Maya, and I received the opportunity to run the kitchen. I think I was 23 years old or something. I was very young, but I was ready for the responsibility. Since then, I never left."
Even after mastering Mexican and French cuisine, Chef Julian continued to grow. He tackled Japanese-South American cuisine by becoming the Executive Chef of SushiSamba in NYC. He then opened SushiSamba7 and SushiSamba Dromo, and became the Corporate Chef for all of Richard Sandoval's Mexican restaurants in 2003. He continued to take on new executive chef opportunities until he opened his own restaurant, Toloache, in August 2007. That was quickly followed by the opening of Yerba Buena, Yerba Buena Perry, Toloache Taqueria, Coppelia and Toloache 82; the restaurant openings framed his appearance on "Iron Chef America: Mexican Chocolate Battle."
"Opening my first restaurant was a really nice moment, and my appearance on 'Iron Chef' and being reviewed by the New York Times were a great moments as well, just to mention a few things I'm proud of," said Chef Julian. "Being a 21-year-old boy that moved to New York City from Mexico City, yeah it was hard, but with passion and education, you can only go up."
When asked which dishes he'd recommend from his restaurants, he stated, "I suggested something like guacamole to start. Also, in a few of our restaurants, we have a brick oven and we make quesadillas in the oven, which is open-face with a flour tortilla. It's one of our signature dishes, it's the Quesadilla de Huitlacoche & Trufas, which comes with manchego cheese, corn, black truffle crema. That's one of my favorite dishes. I also love ceviches for lunch and fresh fish with some citrus, it's refreshing. And, tacos... tacos are one of the best things. I grew up with them, and within two three bites, you can taste all the flavors involved in it. Those are my favorite dishes."
Chef Julian also shared that he enjoys dishes that simply melt in his mouth, particularly ones "that are a little spicy with bit of fire." The masterful chef also stated, " I love fun flavors, such as Vietnamese, Asian, spicy, fresh ... with a lot of flavor. As far as my cooking, and how I like to eat. ... I like to create things that with one bite, you'll taste all of the flavors. And when you dig into a dish that has complex taste, it's the best way to picture a dish."
Chef Julian's final encouraging words to aspiring chefs was, "Be determined, work hard, never lose the essence of cooking, and cook because you have a passion for it ... and if you don't have a passion for it, then look for something else."
Chef Julian is preparing to open a new restaurant, which will be in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan.
Try making Julian Medina's TACOS DE PESCADO (Baja-style tilapia tacos with spicy cabbage slaw and guacamole) at home:
FOR THE CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon chipotle puree
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
11/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon sesame oil
2 cups canola oil
FOR THE SPICY CABBAGE SLAW
2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup chopped red cabbage
½ container chipotle mayonnaise, from above
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
*Kosher salt, to taste
For the Guacamole
2 Mexican haas avocados
2 tablespoons chopped plum tomato
2 tablespoons chopped Spanish onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon seeded chopped jalapeno
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed limejuice
* kosher salt
FOR THE CRISPY TILAPIA
3 6- to 7-ounce tilapia filets
1 pinch kosher salt
1 large egg
1 ½ cups ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
*oil, for frying
8 5-inch corn tortillas
*Lime wedges, for garnish
To make the chipotle mayonnaise, combine all ingredients in a blender, or food processor, except for the oil, and pulse until ingredients are well incorporated.
Slowly add the oil and continue to pulse until the oil is emulsified.
To make the slaw combine all ingredients and season with salt to taste.
To make the guacamole, scoop the pulp out of the ripe avocados into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and a pinch of salt. Mash the ingredients together, leaving it chunky and check the seasoning.
To make the crispy tilapia, wash the tilapia and cut the filets into pieces 2-inches long and 1-inch wide, then sprinkle with salt.
In a small bowl beat the egg with the water, then pour mixture into a separate bowl combining with the all-purpose flour and salt.
In a pan heat the oil to 350F. Roll each tilapia piece in the flour mixture, making sure to coat well. Place the pieces into the oil and fry until a light golden crust forms, about 5 minutes. Remove and place on a laid out paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
To assemble the tacos, heat a griddle to a medium heat, warm the tortillas until soft.
For each taco place 1 teaspoon of guacamole then 1 piece of fried tilapia in the center. Top with some spicy cabbage slaw. Serve with lime wedge.