Tacos, chicharron and tepache are rarely the dishes on people’s must-try lists when they visit Copenhagen. That was until Rosio Sanchez hung up her Noma apron and decided to open Hija de Sanchez, a taco stand in the Torvehallerne food market that’s won many high-profile fans, René Redzepi included. Sanchez has since added a second taqueria by the same name in Copenhagen’s hip Meatpacking District and a more upscale restaurant, Sanchez, which offers dinner, mezcal flights, weekend brunch and agua frescas.
In between running her own restaurants, Sanchez found time to help out her old boss René Redzepi when he took Noma to Mexico for a pop-up in Tulum in 2017. Some of that experience was captured in an episode of Ugly Delicious, David Chang’s Netflix series on the foods that make us tick, which aired in 2018.
Now Sanchez is headed to Australia for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival this March, appearing at The House of Food and Wine to give a Masterclass demonstration (supported by Sanpellegrino), followed by lunch at Mamasita as part of the Global Dining Series supported by Lavazza.
We spoke to Rosio Sanchez about what she wants to do while she’s here, how she takes care of her team and the art of the tortilla.
Tacos al pastor (Jason Loucas)
What was the biggest lesson you learned from the Noma Mexico pop-up?
The use of simple ingredients to make tasty food. It’s almost wrong to try to manipulate great product.
And what was the most memorable thing you ate while you were in Mexico?
Tasting all the wonderful fruit at its peak was just amazing, particularly mangos and guanabana. Guanabana is sweet and sour, like many other tropical fruits, and you can use it in fruit salads, smoothies and even salsas.
You’ve added a third restaurant to your growing Copenhagen stable. What’s Sanchez all about?
With Sanchez, my aim was to open a place that reminisced about the old-school cantinas in Mexico where one could go hang out with friends, drink and eat home-style food made and served by people who care. We wanted to give Copenhagen a local Mexican restaurant that did more than just make tacos. We offer tacos, plus snacks, a tasting menu and a good selection of Mexican beverages.
Why did you want to do something completely different to your Hija de Sanchez taquerias?
Restaurant Sanchez was created with the idea of having more food choices and elevating the guest experience. We have a tasting menu with a drinks pairing, several unique cocktails and an assortment of mezcals and tequila. Hija de Sanchez started with the idea to make the best tacos we could from scratch, which meant making our own masa using corn from Mexico.
A paleta at Hija de Sanchez (Jason Loucas)
Do you feel like the future of tortillas is in a good place? Are there enough people willing to put the labour into making proper tortillas?
Yes. I believe that more people can be made aware of the process and hard work that go into making a good tortilla. It's not common knowledge, and appreciating a good tortilla comes with said knowledge.
I have a great prep team that strives hard from morning well until sundown to bring the flavours of a good tortilla to people who are willing to have the experience of real Mexican food. Cooks also understand that it’s up to us to use an excellent variety of corn to promote diversity in corn production.
We use only Maiz Criollo, which is the corn we obtain from small producers [in Mexico] who use traditional agricultural techniques that are sustainable and don’t involve pesticides. The seeds have been passed down generations and they are unique in each region. The producers grow for themselves and sell the extra corn. My favourite type is yellow corn.
What does a typical day look like for you at work?
We've been aiming to achieve a good work-life balance with four working days and three off days. Work starts in the afternoon on weekdays, and weekends are typically longer due to brunch service. It's very lively and friendly, even in these post-holiday winter months. It definitely helps when you have a fun and supportive team.
What’s the most difficult ingredient to source for your restaurants?
Fruits and some vegetables. There are some items that we cannot get as good here as we can in Mexico, like avocados and tomatillos.
If someone in the US was to send you a care pack from home, what would be in it?
Giardenara peppers and Sour Patch Kids.
What was your favourite cookbook of 2018?
I'd definitely recommend Noma: A Guide to Fermentation.
Yellow courgette tacos (Jason Loucas)
What was your perception of Australia before visiting?
I always had a great perception of Australia as I have had the pleasure to work with a lot of Australians in the States and in Europe. They really are some of the most easygoing and caring people, so I've always had a positive feeling toward Australians and Australia.
What’s on your to-do list this time round?
My to-do list is to taste more local vegetables and fruits and to try to eat at my friend Paul Carmichael's place [Momofuku Seiobo]!
What will you be demonstrating in your Masterclass appearance at The House of Food and Wine?
We will try to show some of our favourite things that we do in the restaurant.
What are three words that best encapsulate Mexican cuisine?
Timeless, diverse, flavourful.
What’s your favourite restaurant in Copenhagen right now?
That's a tough choice because Copenhagen has its share of amazing restaurants and chefs. But off the top of my head, I'd pick Noma at the moment.
What’s your go-to late-night snack when you’re cooking at home?
Macha salsa on rigatoni.
Let’s do a fast five. Corn or flour tortillas?
That's a tough one! Corn.
Tequila or mezcal?
Preferred footwear in the kitchen?
Birkenstocks or tennis shoes.
Morning person or night owl?
What’s your coffee order?
Rosio Sanchez will appear at Masterclass supported by Sanpellegrino on 11 March at The House of Food and Wine and at Global Dining Series supported by Lavazza on 10 March at Mamasita. Tickets are on sale now.
Interview by Emma Breheny