Brando Tijerina is a young chef from Red Robin who empowers other Latin chefs with his passion for cooking and believes. The graduate from Johnson & Wales University-Denver with over 6 years experience in the culinary field working for renowned big brands shared with us some of his secrets and how proud he feels being a Latino and working for an American brand where he have had to add some Latin twist to respect his own culture. He also shared, how as a man, his mother taught him a lot back in the days.

LT: You are Latino; tell us about your origins!

BT: I was born in Mexico City's federal district or ‘Distrito Federal'. My brother and I were the only ones born here as most of my family is from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico (Dad’s Family) and Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico (Mom’s Family). I was glad to be born in Mexico City because I was able to experience the rich cultural environment that Mexico City has to offer. 

LT: Tell us a little bit about your job as a chef and what you do at work.

BT: I recently transitioned from being a Research Chef to be an Associate Manager of Commercialization at Red Robin.  The only difference is that I have acquired new responsibilities; therefore the new title is more appropriate.  I currently support on the developing of new ingredients for them, as well as we do the quality checks after the products are launched to ensure the highest quality of our ingredients.  Also, I support with different initiatives such as our Nutrition program, as well as our Multicultural Initiative.

LT: Do you feel like your culture impacted your career path?

BT: Absolutely!  I believe that my culture, not only impacts my preferences and choices but my behavior and decision-making. My traditions, beliefs, style of life, and adaptability has supported my growth within the company, giving me a different way of thinking that creates a well-rounded environment during the decision making process.

LT: When did you become interested in cooking?

BT: At a young age, I started to become interested in cooking. Mom and Dad traveled often. My brother and I will always miss their meals while they were gone. Therefore, I was always trying to have that delicious dish that reminded me of them.

LT:  At first, did you learn how to cook from someone?

BT: Mom was always in the kitchen, and let me tell you, she has skills. She always cooked whatever we wanted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes, she would cook different dishes just to make sure we weren’t hungry and our cravings were satisfied.  She cooked Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, and, of course, Mexican.  Seeing her work in the kitchen and how she was able to handle different things at a time, made me want to learn how to cook. Besides, I love food, so it was a way for me to keep my belly happy.  I started helping since I was young, including during the time when my Mom was in charge of a University’s cafeteria.  This made me realize that I wanted to be in the food industry. 

LT: Is there a favorite recipe that you enjoy cooking? Does a certain dish remind you of your mom, grandma or aunt?

BT: There are several dishes that I like to cook at home that were my Mom’s signature dishes including ‘Arroz con Pollo y fideos’, ‘Caldo de Pollo Tlalpeno', and ‘Caldo de Res'.  They are very hearty and delicious dishes. However, my Mom and I share a passion for Moles.  She always cooked Mole Negro or Poblano, served with chicken and red rice.  This was a treat for my dad and me, as she will only do it on special occasions (Or if you asked nicely).  I grew up loving the complexity, and the flavors of that dish that made me want to explore this area of Mexican cuisine in depth; therefore, I studied Mexican Gastronomy in Mexico.  Now, I try to cook it for myself and others, but only in special occasions, just like Mom did; although, it is never as good as mom’s.

LT: Where does your inspiration for cooking come from?

BT: I think it comes from everywhere! The environment, the people, the weather, the mood I’m in, the ingredients available, etc.  Everything can affect how you see things at that moment, affecting my ideation process.  However, I must say I always lean towards bright and complex flavors due to the influence of the Mexican cuisine. 

LT: When and why did you decide to become a chef?

BT: I decided to become a Chef when I was in high school. My passion for food and my experience working at restaurants, supported by my mom's knowledge and the support of one of my mentors made me realize that the food industry was where I wanted to be.

LT: What is your favorite menu item from your workplace?

BT: I have two favorite items! My favorite burger is the Banzai Burger and the Ensenada Chicken Platter. Something about the teriyaki sauce and the pineapple that makes me crave this burger.  Also, the ancho-marinated chicken with the salsa-ranch is so complex and flavorful that makes me say YUMMM!