My Mom's Sopa Seca: Aaron Sanchez's Food Memories with his Mom

It's always fascinating to learn where a chef first got his roots in cooking. We often think that it's easy to follow in the culinary footsteps of a parent when the path has already been laid down for you; but in fact it could be quite the opposite if you want to make your own path and impression in the culinary world. This was just the case for Nuevo Latino Chef Aaron Sanchez.

What some don't know about Food Network's and Centrico's talented chef is that his mother, Zarela Martinez, too is a Mexican cuisine icon in her own right. Having written three cookbooks and opened her own famed restaurant in New York City, Zarela's, Aaron wanted to veer away from his mother's influence in cooking and form his own footprint in dining. Yet, he remains ever thankful for his mother's support and inspiration (case in point, Aaron's Letter to Mom).

We caught up with Chef Aaron while he shared with us some food memories of his beloved mother, Zarela Martinez...

What was it like to grow up in the culinary footsteps of your mom, Zarela?

It was difficult, actually! I had to come up from her shadow and I wanted to make my food different from hers, that's why I headed more towards Nuevo Latino instead of just Mexican cuisine. In my culture, it's very easy and logical to follow your father's career footsteps, but not so much your mother's. So I wanted to make my mark as a man, and it's nothing chauvinistic because I still celebrate her and she's my inspiration, but I wanted to prove that cooking was my calling, too.

What is your favorite food memory of your mother?

Ha! I remember when we were living in the Upper West Side, we lived in a small apartment and my mom was making mole and to make a proper mole you have to toast the chilies. I just remember the whole apartment filling with smoke and almost smoking out the entire building. Everyone thought we were burning down the building, but we had to explain that we were just smoking the chilies!

What was your favorite dish that your mom cooked for you?

My favorite was definitely her sopa seca, which is a Mexican-style risotto. It was so good, I just remember asking for her to make it all the time!

Check out a video of Chef Aaron cooking with his mom Zarela below...

What's your favorite food memory with your mom?

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Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Sanchez

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