Austin’s Iconic Restaurant Fonda San Miguel Unveils Innovative Chef Duo

Today may mark the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, but Austin’s iconic Mexican restaurant, Fonda San Miguel, celebrates more than Cinco de Mayo. Ahead of its 47th birthday, the legendary staple of authentic Mexican cuisine has announced two co-chefs now at the helm of the historic restaurant.

Co-founded in 1975 by Tom Gilliland and the late Chef Miguel Ravago, Fonda San Miguel was Austin’s first restaurant to focus on authentic cuisine from the Mexican interior. Ravago’s recipes were inspired by his grandmother’s cooking, and he was known as a master of authentic Mexican cuisine and a giant in the Texas culinary industry. He passed away in June 2017 following a battle with lung cancer, and the two new co-chiefs will be the first to serve in his position at Fonda San Miguel.

“No one could ever replace Miguel,” Gilliland said in a statement. “He wore many hats and filled multiple roles in the kitchen in a way that only he was capable of. It seemed right to hire not one, but two skilled chefs to carry on his legacy.

The two new chefs are Mexico City native Carlos Monroy and sourcing expert Blanca Zesati. Formally trained at the Colegio Superior de Gastronomia, Monroy has a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts with a specialization in regional Mexican cuisine. He most recently served as Executive Chef of Servido, a Mexico City catering company known for serving celebrity clients such as Shakira, Dua Lipa and Paul McCartney.

“I want to continue showing the world that Mexican food is more than tacos, burritos and quesadillas,” Monroy says. “La Fonda San Miguel is the ideal place for this. What Tom and Miguel built nearly 50 years ago has stood the test of time and will live on. Our customers already know the beauty of Mexican cuisine and I am honored to carry on the tradition.

Although born and raised in Chicago, Zesati also has Mexican roots. Her most recent position was as Executive Sous Chef at Austin’s famed Miraval Resort & Spa, where she spent eight years creating inventive menus for guests with dietary restrictions. Zesati ran an all-organic menu program that changed nightly and provided comprehensive nutritional information to customers. Her vast experience in sourcing unique ingredients has made her an expert curator of ingredients and a frequent partner to niche producers across the city.

“I’m excited to learn more about my own culture through food,” says Zesati. “My dad is from Mexico, so we visited often growing up. I want to see how I can incorporate what I’ve learned in my career with what I know of my family’s heritage and hopefully , bringing healthier, plant-based Mexican dishes to Austin.

Gilliland attributes Fonda San Miguel’s longevity to its ability to adapt and evolve while remaining true to its core identity, which is part of the motivation behind hiring these two innovative new chefs. He’s just as excited about Monroy’s mastery of Mexican breads like pan dulce as he is about Zesati’s experience creating creative, organic menus.

“Over the past decade, I’ve noticed a marked increase in the number of customers with dietary restrictions,” says Gilliland, “vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free – and what those people may not know- If you don’t, those options already exist. Authentic Mexican cuisine is largely plant-based, so that’s what Blanca will focus on; researching, finding, and incorporating those dishes into Fonda San Miguel’s menu. ”

Ultimately, Gilliland commissioned both Zesati and Monroy to expand Fonda San Miguel’s existing menu while retaining the restaurant’s core offerings.

“The new items don’t replace anything,” he says. “But I’m sure adding them will help us be more accessible to more people.” I’ve been around long enough to know that the best way to create a lasting legacy is to keep evolving, pushing boundaries, and always making everyone feel welcome, seen, and loved.

The news comes just in time for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and Fonda San Miguel invites old and new customers to sample the expanded menu with a “Numero Uno” margarita (or two) on May 5 as part of the festivities. . La Fonda San Miguel is located at 2330 W. North Loop Blvd. Customers can visit fondasanmiguel.com to make reservations.

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