This post is also available in: Spanish
TLC: Please tell us what exciting projects are you are working on right now?
AS: A new restaurant opening in Austin, TX, called The Sanchez, opening around February 2016. A new book with stories about my life, a lot of my friend’s recipes, and my travels. I will be filming more Chopped and more Taco Trip on the Cooking Channel.
TLC: You were blessed to have fallen into cooking thanks in large part to your mom. What advice do you have for Latinos trying to find their place in life who don’t have the same opportunities?
AS: I believe you have to maintain your language. There is a saying that says, “Cuando pierdes tu lengua, pierdes tu patria” (You lose your country, when you lose your language). You have to preserve the cultural roots we have. Continue to learn, go back to your homeland, talk to your grandma, people that can really guide you. If you do that you will have a great foundation. The truth of the matter is that my story is not very different from many others. What my mom did was for her livelihood. How many mom and pops are out there? My story is not different from others, mine is just a bit more accelerated and recognized.
TLC: It sounds like your career path worked with your personality type? You seem to like to do a lot stay active in the kitchen.
AS: The key to longevity is to stay well rounded and to re-invent yourself keep moving forward. I’ve always been the type of person to seek knowledge despite my setbacks. I’ve had both good and bad things happen in my life, but I always move forward and I seek the lessons.
TLC: How do you feel about being part of a generation of chefs who make the industry look appealing, interesting, and most of all sexy?
AS: The idea of being passionate, creative, and using your whole soul in what you do is really what people find sexy. The idea of being a leader. I don’t have a boss, well maybe except my momma. When you think and act with that confidence people find that appealing. I also say be honest and treat people with respect and that adds to it. We struggle for good role models. Many people worship sports athletes, but to look at a chef, that’s a worthwhile profession. It’s very hard work, but it does reward you.
TLC: How important is having family support to your success?
AS: We are a typical Latino family. We like to tell others that we have someone famous in our family. Yo, My Cousin is Famous! My Primo is on TV. My family is no different. They have been very supportive. I’ve had them on my shows. I live with my Tio. He’s always been my world. He’s come out on my shows.
TLC: We talk a lot about Latinos being the New American Reality. Dual culture/dual language. You’re a Latino man who does the cooking, when we’ve been used to our mamas, abuelas, and tias in the kitchen. What do you think about being in the forefront of that reality? Un macho en la cocina. (a man in the kitchen).
AS: I think it’s necessary and about time. I can’t speak to the very traditional roles because my mom was the daddy and the momma. I didn’t have that narrative necessarily. I helped in the kitchen when my mom needed me. I think it’s important and the times have changed. You gotta move with the times or be left behind.
TLC: We’ve seen you on shows like Chopped and Heat Seekers to name a few. What goes through your mind when you’re about to put food in your mouth that you have no clue what it’s about to do to your sense. Especially when the food does not look or smell appealing.
AS: First you give in to what you can see visually. That gives me an indication as a barometer. Once I get that figured out I can see if I’m going to like it. I’ve eaten funky unimaginable foods. You have to be open minded. Understand that all food in our American culture is very jaded. When my Tio and I travel through Latin American countries we don’t ever ask what’s in this, can we have that. For me it’s appreciating someone else’s craft. At the end of the day someone has poured their heart out and in essence giving a piece of them. Trust me, I have had the best ingredients like lobster done very bad. You can still mess that up.
TLC: If say 11 million people were to be deported, what do you think that would do to the food industry in the U.S.?
AS: It would cripple it. We are living in different times and the reality is that these people are here. It would cripple not only the food industry, but the agricultural industry, hospitality, so many fields. It can’t be okay for fifty years and then all of a sudden try to put a kibosh on it. Plus, if you were to legitimately document these people their tax money would help us get out of a deficit.
TLC: Where do you get the confidence to do what you do?
AS: Not having much growing up and now that I have a little bit, I’m not going to allow anyone to take it. I’m not going to lose it. I work hard every day. When I walk in the kitchen many of the kids that work in there look up to me. They come out and look for me. They ask to take pictures with me. That means a lot to me.
TLC: What do you do to relax your mind and body and de-stress from the pressures of life?
AS: I’m a movie buff. I’m not a very exciting person. I’m more of a home body. I work a lot so I can’t be out all night long. For example, some days I have to be at a shoot at 6 a.m. If I go out I don’t have an off switch either I party or I go to work. That’s part of my success and to be responsible to my craft. I love to listen to Latin music. When I’m in different towns I like to go to Latin clubs. I also like to go to markets. I’m also a Buddhist. I like to give of my time.
TLC: How does a Mexican-American become a Buddhist?
AS: My ex-wife is a Buddhist and introduced me to the practice. We got married in a Buddhist ceremony. I like the idea of honoring, cause and effect, and being in rhythm with the universe.
TLC: Put together for us the perfect Aarón taco…what would be the ingredients down to the tortilla?
AS: There is nothing better than a great Al Pastor with a little bit of onion, a good salsa, with two corn tortillas double stacked.