Originally published on Latimes.com on November 20, 2018 By
A rendering of La Plaza Cocina, a new museum and educational kitchen devoted to Mexican food. The complex is scheduled to open early next year. (Johnson Fain)
La Plaza Cocina, a museum and educational kitchen devoted entirely to the history and evolution of Mexican food, is scheduled to open in downtown L.A. in early 2019.
The 2,500-square-foot facility will be located in LA Plaza Village, a 3.7-acre complex now being assembled within El Pueblo Historical Monument. Both developments are part of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes.
La Plaza Cocina will explore and honor Mexican cuisine, as well as its deep relationship with Los Angeles, through a variety of programs, classes, events and exhibitions held at the location.
“Los Angeles is the Mexican food capital of the country, and it deserves a place that celebrates the history and culture that we have with Mexican food,” says John Echeveste, chief executive of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. “It’s important, not only to Latino families, but anyone who eats.”
In addition to a hands-on teaching kitchen where cooking classes with professional chefs will be offered, an exhibition area will delve into the origins and advancement of important ingredients and regional dishes.
Already on the class schedule for next year are a tasting tutorial on Valle de Guadalupe wines in March and an April class with Humberto Raygoza, owner of the Chori-Man, followed by a session on Maya cooking from the Yucatán. Previous classes held at La Plaza featured Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza restaurant, Loteria’s Jimmy Shaw and Gilberto Cetina of Chichén Itzá and Holbox.
“We really want to highlight the great Mexican chefs who we have in town,” Echeveste says. “In real, hands-on cooking experiences.”
Series programming will include authors, experts and guest speakers, including chefs from both the U.S. and Mexico. Live cooking classes broadcast from Mexico are also part of a still developing blueprint, and down the line a chef-in-residence will be selected to assist with exhibits and curriculum.
“It’s a multipurpose space centered around Mexican cuisine in all of its ramifications,” Echeveste says. “We also plan to look at how Mexican cuisine has been interpreted here in the U.S., especially Los Angeles.”
There will also be food you can eat. Echeveste says there may be a vendor making fresh tortillas and quesadillas throughout the day.
A separate specialty store will feature spices, books, videos and utensils. La Plaza Cocina also plans to accommodate pop-ups, food, wine and spirits tastings, as well as food festivals.
The conception of La Plaza Cocina is a natural extension of La Plaza’s now seven-year exploration of Mexican and Mexican American art, history and culture, including culinary studies. The museum already has its own edible teaching garden and culinary arts program offering workshops for grades K-12.
“We really want it to be a gathering place, both for people who are serious chefs and cooks of Mexican cuisine, as well as casual enthusiasts, to come and learn about the history of Mexican food: its origins, its current applications and where it’s going,” Echeveste says. “We see it as being a vibrant, active space that’ll serve as a magnet for people who share that interest. ”