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Mexican chef in Las Vegas – El Sol de México

It is no longer a fantasy to find in the desert handmade tortillas, mole, red pozole, tlalpeño broth, nopales, cheese, beans and, of course, potosina enchiladas. Chef Carlos Cruz-Santos, from the restaurant China Poblano He is one of the Mexicans who makes it possible; He is a promoter of our food in Las Vegas, a city that was established in the Mojave Desert, in the United States, and a site that is believed to have been found by a Mexican explorer named Rafael Rivera. The relationship with Mexico could be seen from the beginning of the now famous tourist destination.

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Cruz-Santos is originally from San Luis Potosí and he got involved with cooking since he was little, he says that everything he learned then was from his mother, with the recipes that she has in her head. The chef has been in the kitchen for around 30 years and 14 of them at China Poblano in Las Vegas, but his story in the United States did not begin with the food of his country of origin; Before focusing on Mexican gastronomy he explored Italian, French and especially Spanish in Fuss, by chef José Andrés. There were still no tortillas there, he was preparing paella.

In 2008 he went on vacation to Las Vegas, but he left his suitcases there and stayed. “I started looking for work in José Andrés’ group and became the paella chef. I lasted a year and spent about six more opening restaurants with him, in New York and the Bahamas. In 2018 was when they offered me the cuisine of China Poblano (…) Being from Mexico, I had never worked in a Mexican food restaurant, until I arrived here,” he said in an interview for Aderezo.

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Origin, proposal and essence


The possibilities of finding Mexican seasoning, in the most faithful and responsible way, are many when it comes to chef Carlos Cruz-Santos. To achieve this, he makes constant trips to different states of the country in search of ingredients, traditional recipes, and culinary trends, which are increasingly stronger on this side of the continent.

“We try to offer food from the different regions of Mexico. Here we have dishes from Oaxaca, Veracruz, Baja and the North… that’s why I was very interested in being in this restaurant, because not only that, that is, ‘it’s Mexican food’, we make stews from each region and the states. We have about twenty-something chiles to use in moles, sauces, and meat or fish marinades. For example, the tortilla dough we have is from Oaxaca, it comes fresh, they grind the corn for us and nixtamalize it for us, they are ingredients that come from the heart of Mexico. Everyone can make Mexican tacos, but where are the ingredients they use from? We travel to bring them and also see what is being done there,” says the chef.

The original recipes and what is trending in our country inspire chefs like Carlos; He remembers that a few months ago, on one of his explorations through Punta Mita, Nayarit discovered an aguachile with octopus ink. She liked it so much that she now cooks that dish in Las Vegas.

As its name refers to, the restaurant that Cruz-Santos runs is a combination of Chinese and Mexican food, two cultures that he greatly enjoys due to their similarities and stories, as well as their spicy and acidic flavors; but that also throws him challenges, such as using inputs from Mexico and China for his proposals or finding parallels in their uses, such as in spices, chili peppers, anise, cinnamon that, as he comments, are found in food. southern Mexican and northern Chinese food.

According to a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center, 11% of all restaurants in the United States serve Mexican food and 85% of the country’s 3,244 counties have at least one Mexican restaurant. It is therefore very common to try to match the flavor, but this generates controversy. What does the chef think about it?

“I have traveled all over the United States and have eaten Mexican food in different regions here. It makes me laugh when they come from Texas and tell me that we don’t know, that that’s where the mere, mere is from, but we are doing what is truly from my country. “Not everything is burritos or nachos.” The chef says that to be faithful to his work he goes to eat at all the Mexican restaurants he can, mainly in Los Angeles; He also educates himself and comes to Mexico a lot, especially to her mother’s house in San Luis Potosí, because no one makes tortillas and tamales like she does.

“I think the boom is because of our people. We are reaching all regions of the United States and we bring Mexican food everywhere. That cuisine has always been very loved here, who doesn’t like tacos? People are trying new dishes, like mole or different fillings for tacos: carne asada, lobster and mushrooms. Wherever we go, we take food. “We like to eat what they have in the US, but we also love ours”

“I thank everyone who has helped me get here. We have the responsibility to cook like Mexico, to have true Mexican cuisine, natural and with fresh ingredients. And on the other hand, many Mexicans work with me here in Las Vegas and I have to take care of them or even their families, to preserve the food, but also the Mexican culture here in the United States. One day I would like to return to Mexico and sell beers and corn and that’s it. A simple life,” emphasizes the chef.

Taste of Mexico in Las Vegas


The chef evokes the dishes of the state where he is from to include them in China Poblano, among them, the enchiladas potosinas and the gorditas that can come and go on the menu, but they remain. “We use fresh dough and pork rinds for the gorditas; In addition, there is never a shortage of chilies, beans and corn.”

If you are planning to visit this tourist destination and miss the taste of home on the table, consider a visit to Carlos’ kitchen and especially order the tamales. “They have a feeling because my mom always makes them for Christmas and birthdays. In China Poblano I make according to the season, recently we put a tamale with black mole. Everyone loves it. For Day of the Dead, for example, we made one with sweet potato stuffed with pumpkin… soon we are going to make a pumpkin tamale for spring.

In addition, the menu changes three times a year and there are festivals, such as the Day of the Dead, a tequila festival, May 5 and Chinese New Year.

Read the full note here: Carlos Cruz-Santos, the chef who brings Mexican to Las Vegas

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