Rosio Sanchez: “We make sure to understand where our inspiration comes from”.

Rosio Sanchez: “We make sure to understand where our inspiration comes from”.

Rosio Sanchez’s star is on the rise. IT WAS THE PURSUIT OF FLAVOR THAT ENTICED HER TO LEAVE HER HOME OF CHICAGO FOR NEW YORK. AFTER CUTTING HER CULINARY CHOPS AS A PASTRY CHEF AT MODERNIST DINING ROOM WD-50, ROSIO CROSSED THE ATLANTIC TO WORK IN RENÉ REDZEPI’S LAUDED NORDIC RESTAURANT NOMA IN COPENHAGEN. Today Rosio explores her heritage, cooking punchy and extremely popular plates of beautifully executed Mexican food at her restaurant Sanchez and her two taquerias. WE SPEAK WITH ROSIO ABOUT CHASING HER PASSION ACROSS THE GLOBE, FINDING INSPIRATION IN CULTURAL HERITAGE AND THE GROWING MEXICAN DIASPORA IN DENMARK.

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On growing up in Chicago

I grew up on the city’s west side in a community known as Little Village (La Villita). For the most part I enjoyed this neighborhood because it was so rich in Mexican culture. Like many of our neighbours, my parents had moved to Chicago from Mexico. It is the largest foreign-born Mexican population in all of Chicago. I got to experience Little Mexico even though I was in the USA. As a kid, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now as an adult.

On following your passion around the globe

I moved to New York when I was 21 to challenge myself to become a better cook among the best restaurants. I then set out to travel to Europe for the first time and I spent a few months moving around and working. I was contacted about a position at a restaurant – Noma – in Copenhagen to which I quickly accepted. I felt it was that moment of ‘right place right time’ and it worked out. I stayed at the restaurant for five years. Now I have been in Copenhagen for 10 years and it is definitely home for me.

On the challenges of relocating to Copenhagen 

I definitely felt that I was taking a huge risk by moving to a new country where I didn’t know anyone. When I moved here, I didn’t even have a face-to-face conversation with my boss, so it was a huge leap of faith. I drew a lot of inspiration from my parents – they were immigrants to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s. After my move I suddenly had a much greater admiration for my parents who moved without a job or even speaking English. I didn’t understand the magnitude of it all until I was doing it myself. I have great tenacity because of them. My parents, and the broader immigrant story of overcoming such a move, is really inspiring and keeps me determined to succeed. 

The Sanchez Restaurant team and beautifully plated and tasting Mexican food. Images courtesy Rosio Sanchez.

On finding inspiration in a new continent

My first experience in Europe was extremely invigorating both gastronomically and personally, and I continue to be inspired by the new information I learn about Copenhagen which has a direct influence on my creativity, because what I have seen blends with my past experiences to inform the new flavors that I discover. 

On finding your community in Copenhagen

I would say it’s keeping your eyes and ears open, networking and making conversations with those around you. Creatives have this natural way of finding their own kind.  

After my move I suddenly had a much greater admiration for my parents who moved without a job or even speaking English. I didn’t understand the magnitude of it all until I was doing it myself. 

On Copenhagen as a mecca for top-rate chefs

I’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of talented people. What is great about this city is that you do feel a sense of community and support from other chefs and former colleagues.

On understanding a place through its food

You can tell a lot about the city you’re in when you eat at a local restaurant. I think you get a sense of the culture by experiencing a meal somewhere. I don’t think it’s just the food either, the way you experience service can also tell you about the city. 

Rosio with the Hija de Sanchez Cantina team, and the Sanchez restaurant space in Copenhagen. Images courtesy Rosio Sanchez.

On food’s role as a piece of the societal puzzle

Food is so important to our society, not just as nourishment, but as a means to maintain a healthy cycle of life. We need restaurants to support chefs, farmers, designers and so on. They all use resources from this earth to work on their craft. The 2020 pandemic has been helpful to shed some light on what we are doing well in our industry and what needs to change. We all know that food brings us together, but now I feel people have become more conscious of their eating habits and practices. We’ve also come to appreciate how much of a luxury it is to be able to eat out and share a meal with someone. 

On taking the leap to open your own business

Stepping away from Noma forced me to answer who I am and what I’m aiming to be. I was able to see myself in the greater picture and I was able to find a purpose for myself in cooking. 

My first experience in Europe was extremely invigorating both gastronomically and personally, and I continue to be inspired by the new information I learn about Copenhagen, and the surrounding countries.

On Mexican craftsmanship and sourcing ingredients

We would be nowhere without our corn producers from Oaxaca and Merida. Of course there’s also all of our food purveyors, and we can’t forget about the people who help design our brand and make our plates. They are just as important.

On creating modern yet authentic menus

We make sure to understand where our inspiration – in Mexico – comes from. Then we apply it to our home here in Copenhagen. I always say it needs to taste like you’re eating at someone’s home – and – that you are eating it here in Copenhagen.

Sanchez Tunatostada, Empanadas and packaging design. Images courtesy Rosio Sanchez.

On where you find inspiration

I love being inspired by my past, my travels, my surroundings and my team. I think cooking is an ever-changing process which is what makes it so exciting. It is constantly evolving based on experiences and my team’s interaction.  

On business lessons you learnt during COVID-19 

Restaurant business owners have been hit hard by the pandemic and have had to limit their earnings. We actually found that we work better as a restaurant with a tighter menu and crew. We plan on continuing this smaller offering. I think too, the diner needs to understand that restaurants run on tight margins and perhaps having a huge menu is not the best option for anyone. We’ve also stopped using paper menus which has been amazing. But as for the full effects on the industry, it’s too soon for me to say. There’s a lot to think about, and my main priority is having my business survive through this pandemic. 

I’m a lot more comfortable with simple things executed with care. The older I get, the more I tend to enjoy the simple things – like dishes with fewer ingredients. If something is done correctly you don’t need a lot.

We make sure to understand where our inspiration – in Mexico – comes from. Then we apply it to our home here in Copenhagen. I always say it needs to taste like you’re eating at someone’s home – and – that you are eating it here in Copenhagen.

On your favorite places in Copenhagen

I love people watching at King’s Garden. Or when seeking inspiration I’ll go for a run or head on a bike ride. For meeting my friends I’ll head to Pompette wine bar in Norrebro. For the best New Nordic food, Noma wins hands down everytime. A favorite shop in Copenhagen for a treat would be Beauty Avenue. They make really nice organic creams and cleaners that use a lot of botanicals. Another cool shop for food is Lille Bakery. It holds an occasional farmers market selling amazing produce. For takeaway, Poulette sells a super tasty Tiramisu! 

On your must visit places when returning to Chicago

La Villita neighbourhood to see my friends and family and to eat Mexican food! Try El Faro in La Villita. 

Sunset cycling in Copenhagen, the city’s beautiful waterways and Rosio through the window. Images courtesy Rosio Sanchez.

On a window or an aisle seat

Aisle for long flights, window for domestic. 

On Chicago in one word

Energetic.

On Copenhagen in one word

Peaceful.

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Nuggets in this interview

food and drink

Sanchez, Copenhagen

"It needs to taste like you’re eating at someone’s home – and – that you are eating it here in Copenhagen."

–Rosio Sanchez

inspiration

Kings Garden, Copenhagen

“For me I love people watching at King’s Garden."

–Rosio Sanchez

food and drink

Pompette, Copenhagen

“For meeting friends.”

–Rosio Sanchez

food and drink

Noma, Copenhagen

“For the best New Nordic food, Noma wins hands down everytime.”

–Rosio Sanchez

inspiration

Cycling, Copenhagen

“When seeking inspiration I’ll go for a run or head on a bike ride.”

–Rosio Sanchez

need to know

Beauty Avenue, Copenhagen

"They make really nice organic creams and cleansers that use a lot of botanicals."

–Rosio Sanchez

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