Carnitas hiss in lard and black beans bubble as Chef Gabriela Cámara talks tortillas. “I’ve been making them this way since I was eight,” she says, kneading the masa harina dough. She tests the temperature of her comal, a traditional tortilla griddle, with her bare fingertips without flinching. It’s only 10:30 AM in our studio kitchen, but Cámara needs no warming up before we begin shooting. And there’s no stopping her. She is, after all, chef-owner of nine restaurants in Mexico and one in the US.
Cámara never intended to be a food tycoon. The restaurant industry practically fell into her lap while she was studying art history in Mexico City. She and her friends loved eating fresh grilled fish on the coast but noticed that the city was missing a seafood scene, so she opened Contramar. Diners gobbled up her fresh tuna tostadas and grilled fish slathered with a striking duo of red and green chile sauces. “I’m taking advantage of a hole," she says, "of a missing part of cuisine in a city where people are so obsessed with food.”
From stuffing tacos to building a Mexican restaurant empire, Cámara is skilled at filling the gaps. In San Francisco, a city that’s notoriously hard to find steady waitstaff, she opened her latest restaurant, Cala, with staff consisting mostly of ex-cons who have come through job-placement programs and halfway houses. “In Mexico, I’ve had all these characters...They get it together because they see an opportunity,” she explains. “I didn’t want to use it as a publicity tool...I did not have that pretension.”
Cámara certainly favors deliciousness over pretension in her cooking as well, and that's why she’s created her Mexican Street Food class with us. You’ll learn to griddle homemade corn tortillas that taste nuttier and softer than any store-bought version; they're a key component of Cámara's tangy shredded chicken tacos, Baja-style fish tacos, deep-fried quesadillas, and egg-stuffed breakfast, all topped with homemade tongue-tingling condiments from Yucatán-style pickled onions to fresh salsa verde. There’s even more antojitos (literally "little cravings") in this colorful cooking course, and as Cámara will show you, they’re just as craveable in your kitchen as they are off the street.