click to enlarge bartlettimage-mx_taco-6450.jpg

Photo by Rob Bartlett

Ryan Manning's passion, experience and drive make MX Taco as authentic as any CDMX taqueria 

Ryan Manning ate tacos all across Mexico during his stint as chef de cuisine at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun. He later staged a pop-up at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., prior to opening his unassuming Milk District taquería, MX Taco.

Cultural appropriation has become an increasingly sensitive topic in the world of food. What are your thoughts on food identity and ownership? Just because someone is a native from a country doesn't entitle them to the sole rights to a cuisine. I lived in Mexico for several years and had the chance to learn in professional high-end kitchens and worked with other culinary business owners in Mexico. In our short restaurant life, we've invested into the Mexican economy by supporting Mexican businesses (MX Taco's uniforms are made by an entrepreneur friend of mine in Cholula) and Mexican charities (we've raised more than $1,000 in support of culinary education in Veracruz and have donated $300 to Huellas de Pan in Cancun, which supports abused women and their children). You're not an expert in a cuisine because of your race. You're an expert because of your passion, hard work, and drive.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

What challenges have you personally faced as a non-Mexican running an "authentic" taquería? In reality, not many. My food speaks for itself. I'm fluent in Spanish and speak some Mayan. Before opening, we were able to become culinary ambassadors for the Mexican government in the United States by doing pop-up events with them and supporting the Mexican Cultural Institute. We're scheduled to join the Mexican Consulate of Orlando as caterers for their VIP event at the Consulate for Mexican Independence Day this September, and that's a testament to the authenticity of our cuisine.

How are you reducing food waste? What are you doing to make the restaurant more sustainable? With our guisados style of cooking – a method of slow braised cooking – there is very little waste. We also use peltre, or metal plates, to avoid waste and breakage, and our to-go containers and bags are biodegradable paper.

What was your first food addiction? Spätzle! My mouth waters just thinking about it. ( ▲

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