My mother says I was always a very good eater.
I’m a freelance writer, home cook, documentarian, runner, yogi and food enthusiast.
I’m a traveler at heart, and it’s very difficult to keep me in one place.
I’m captivated by good stories and the storytellers who weave them.
I’m a Lebican*.
As the daughter of a Mexican-American mother and a Lebanese-American father, I honed my palate tied to the apron strings of family members keen to pass along the strong culinary traditions of Mexico, Lebanon, and my native Arizona.
I have eaten in 3-star Michelin restaurants and off of dried banana leaves on dirt floors in my beloved India. Each meal was the best of my life in different ways. Interestingly, a 1×1 foot hole deftly cut through a mud structure for meal mood lighting is an economical solution to the ambiance dilemma so many restaurants face these days.
I very much like eggs, Sriracha, achar, pickles, olives, cheese, more cheese, all the cheese, bourbon, any brown liquor for that matter, peanut butter, goldfish crackers and oh yes, chocolate and chiles. Sometimes mixed together. Sometimes not.
I split my time between Los Angeles, New York City and Antigua, Guatemala.
I spend my days dreaming up new adventures to undertake and cooking with three local Guatemalan women as different from eachother in age, socioeconomic status and life experience as they could be. I consider them my personal Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather.
I studied documentary storytelling at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and New York University.
To pay the bills, I produce commercials.
*What’ you’ll find on Chocolate and Chiles?
Food. Good food. International food. Street food. Weird food. Fad food. Staple food. Healthy food. Fresh food. Farmed food. Bad-for-you food. Seasonal food. Mexican food. Feel good food.
Beautiful spots I’m visiting or I want to visit.
Interesting people from my travels and inspiration from people, places and things I love.
Some not-so-fun aspects of being a woman on the move, like stomach bugs and lost luggage and denied visas.
Family history and fun facts.
Useful food knowledge.
Personal and sometimes honest life moments I share hoping to help anyone who might be struggling with similar.
Lots of great recipes, usually involving hot sauce, made in myriad of kitchens spanning from New York to Guatemala to Spain to Phoenix to San Francisco to India to my humble kitchen in Los Angeles. (Spoiler alert: This doesn’t exist yet, but it will soon.)
*What’s a lebican?
My most important early culinary influences were my parents. I learned to cook from them, traditional foods from their separate and diverse ethnic backgrounds, Lebanese and Mexican. Combined, these two foods/words form a word that only exists in my family’s dictionary – Lebican.
My mother started from humble food beginnings (think tuna fish tacos wrapped in homemade tortillas) in a small Mexican-American outpost town outside of Phoenix, Arizona. She’s the best cook I know. Just don’t ask her to bake.
As the oldest son in a Lebanese-American household, my father quickly became involved in his mother’s Mexican food restaurant, Ricardo’s. He taught me how to cook a perfect steak at our backyard grill and how to whip up flakey, fluffy biscuits in a Dutch oven buried under leftover campfire coals at a friend’s ranch in Southern Arizona.
Interestingly enough, it was my mother who taught me how to cook Lebanese food, which she learned by spending many hours in the kitchen with my father’s many aunts and sisters. And after spending years working in his mother’s restaurant, it was my dad who taught me how to make many of the Mexican favorites I eat so often.
Please don’t get confused – my father is Lebanese and owned a Mexican restaurant; my mother is Mexican but taught me how to make all the Lebanese delicacies of my childhood. That’s just how it was in my family – always a little unexpected but always delicious, like chocolate and chiles.