As a Mexico City native and the executive chef of Papatzul in SoHo, Thierry Amezcua has been busy redefining the Mexican dining experience since he first stepped into a kitchen. He sat down to chat with us about his culinary career and what makes Papatzul different than other Mexican restaurants, starting with his childhood in Coyoacan.
“It’s a very special place where one can have a taste of the Old Mexico as well as a bohemian experience,” says Amezcua who spent countless hours eating and hanging out with his family near the Plaza and market where they lived. “From carnitas to tacos to hand made sopes, to esquites, it was a street food paradise!”
Along the tree lined cobblestone streets of his hometome, Amezcua found century colonial houses, mansions, and churches. He immersed himself in his hometown's history and art, learning about the Spanish explorer Cortez and imagining the life of Frida Kahlo. And though Amezcua will always have fond memories of Mexico, he's just as proud of his new home.
“I am actually a U.S. citizen and very much a proud New Yorker!," Amezcua said. "However, I feel that embracing my culture has been a very important part of my experience. Back in Mexico City I had the opportunity to work in two renowned Spanish restaurants and ever since then I wanted to have my own."
Now, Amezcua is living the dream, opening up Papatzul with his his wife and fellow chef, Debby, in 2006. The name, Papatzul, which is actually the name of a traditional Yucatan dish, also has a special meaning.
“I loved the idea right away, but what was more appealing to us was the meaning, ‘Food for the lords,’ and the sound of it,” Amezcua said.
Surpassing many expectations and external forces, most notably a weak economy, Papatzul is now one of the staples of traditional Mexican cuisine in Manhattan, and continues to receive a great response from the public.
“Opening Papatzul has been an amazing way to maintain that bridge with my native culture,” said Amezcua. “Not only has it satisfied me culturally, but also humanly because I meet a lot of Mexicans who currently reside in New York that are thankful for that little piece of home.”
Next, what the future holds for Amezcua...