Chef Luis Martinez was born in Santa Catarina Loxicha, Oaxaca, Mexico, in a small Zapotec pueblo. He came to the US in 2005, after studying Fine Arts at the state university while also working in kitchens around Oaxaca City. Upon arriving in the US, he experienced the harsh reality of migrant work and the shock of a different culture as a farmworker in Indio, California. After eventually moving to Los Angeles, Luis got back into the restaurant industry, where he worked in several restaurants and cuisines, always alongside other Oaxacans. These chefs taught Luis how to infuse Oaxacan culture and cuisine into his cooking by using various methodologies, from traditional ingredients to Asian techniques. Now based in Asheville, NC, Luis is combining his love for cooking with his passion for social justice.
One of the factors that pushed Luis to the US was the Mexican government’s designation of his community-building efforts in indigenous communities as politically dangerous. Because of his involvement, he experienced extreme abuse from the government, ultimately leading to his seeking and receiving political asylum in the US. Now an American citizen, Luis is dedicated to continuing to work alongside indigenous communities in overcoming and flourishing, despite difficult economic challenges and dangerous political encounters.
Mexican chefs on the US East Coast often have to make substitutions in their dishes because the unique, heirloom products are simply not available on the East Coast. By combining his experience in community-building within closed communities with his experience as a chef, Luis is leveraging a deep commitment to the roots of Mexican cuisine with the promotion of Mexican gastronomy on the US East Coast.
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