Skip to main content

Gabriela Camara Transcript

Gabriela Cámara’s Mexico City Kitchen

 Mashama Bailey: Hi, I'm Mashama Bailey and you're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe.

Kerry Diamond: Hi, Bombesquad. You're listening to Radio Cherry Bombe and I'm your host Kerry Diamond. Each week we talked to the most inspiring women in and around the world of food. Let's thank our sponsor Handsome Brook Farm Pasture Raised Organic Eggs. Handsome Brook Farm secret to making rich flavorful eggs is simple, the most possible space, the best possible feed and lots of love. It's a healthy and humane recipe that makes your omelets cakes, custards, and everything in between tastes better. Get cracking at Handsome Brook All right, it's time for some housekeeping. Radio Cherry Bombe is coming to a city near you. The food for thought tour is underway.

Kerry Diamond: We had a lovely stop in Savannah this week at Cheryl Day's Back in the Day Bakery. So many members of the Bombesquad came in from out of town, including our pals at Camp Craft Cocktail, and 1748 Bakehouse. Next up is Baltimore on Tuesday the 11th, Phoenix on June 25th, and San Diego on July 8th. We'd love to see all of you at these events. Tickets are available at cherry and big thanks to carry gold for supporting our tour. Don't forget our cone only initiative is underway. It's in partnership with the folks at Surfrider NYC and the Surfrider Long Island chapters. If you're getting ice cream in the summer, make sure to skip the cup and skip the spoon. Go cone only for a more sustainable summer. Also, our new issue featuring cover girl Samin Nosrat of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is almost here. You can snag an issue through cherry or visit your favorite book or magazine shop including Omnivore Books in San Francisco and Paris market in Savannah.

Kerry Diamond: Now onto today's episode, I had the privilege of sitting down with Gabriela Cámara, the chef, author, and activist behind restaurants like Contramar in Mexico City, Cala in San Francisco and the upcoming Onda in Los Angeles that Gabriela is opening with Jessica Koslow from Sqirl. Gabriela's first cookbook, my Mexico City Kitchen is out right now and it's a beautiful compilation of her recipes and convictions as the subtitle says. Gabriela is a force for change, and we're so glad she's part of the Bombesquad. Before we get to my conversation with Gabriela Cámara, let's hear a word from our sponsor.

Kerry Diamond: Handsome Brook Farm believes that organic and pastured is the way to go when it comes to eggs. Pasture raised means better lives for hens, better lives for small farmers and better eggs for you. It's also better for the chefs who depend on rich flavorful eggs. Handsome Brook Farms own flock of amazing chefs. Their mother hens count on it. Janine Booth is a mother hen. She's the Australian chef behind the southern inspired Root and Bone restaurants in New York City and Miami. Want to learn how chef Janine makes her sweet corn spoon bread? The ingredients include Handsome Brook Farm eggs, some scallions, sharp cheddar cheese, and a touch of heavy cream. You can find chef Janine's delicious egg centric recipes and videos on Handsome Brook Where can you find Handsome Brook Farm Organic Pasture Raised eggs? At Publix, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market, Fresh Direct and many natural food stores across the country. Enjoy my chat with Gabriela Cámara.

Kerry Diamond: Did you have 800 people at your wedding?

Gabriela Cámara: I did.

Kerry Diamond: Because I read that in the book and I was like some of the local women you knew very well growing up made mole. And you said made mole for 800 people and I was like, wait what?

Gabriela Cámara: Yes, yes.

Kerry Diamond: It's like a royal wedding.

Gabriela Cámara: No, but it was a wedding in towns. In small towns, everybody's invited, so somebody shows up and it's just that's the way it is. And I think formally, we had like 500 600, which was so big. But then people were just invited and they come along with their families. And it's a very traditional town where people live in neighborhoods that are called barrios. And all the barrios have different festivities, depending on the religious figure that their church has. And the day of the party of barrio, the houses are open, they make mole for 1000 people each house and people just go from house to house eating the different moles that the mostly ladies prepare. And it's a very communal, sort of inclusive culture that is open to everybody.

Kerry Diamond: What town did you grow up in?

Gabriela Cámara: I grew up in the post land in the city of Morelos, South of Mexico City.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, so one thing I could not find in the book is how did you make the jump from studying art and history to being a chef?

Gabriela Cámara: I was studying history, I wanted to be a curator of contemporary art. I just always envisioned myself as an academic, because that's what my parents were and that's what sort of my world was. And in Mexico you have to go into a subject right after high school. It's not you don't go to college and then sort of get to choose from here and there. So I thought, okay, I was having a real struggle in what I should study and I decided that history was sort of a general thing that appealed to me on many different levels and it a lot of philosophy and literature, and it was sort of my middle ground of not going to college because I knew I wanted to study in Mexico. I just simply did not want to come to the States to study because I really wanted to be Mexican in a sort of ... I just wanted to go to university here. And I while I was studying, we just came up with the idea of this restaurant. And this restaurant became Contramar.

Gabriela Cámara: This restaurant was this huge warehouse, where we started making this amazing seafood with a specific coastal influence, but also like very Italian in its purity and simplicity. And it's now clear to me that it is this because when we open it, it was just what we did. This other friend I opened it with was also Italian and also he didn't want to live in Italy, came back to Mexico. And so it sort of made sense. We many times we said, “Oh, let's make a restaurant. Let's make a restaurant.” But then he was really-

Kerry Diamond: Let me just interrupt one second. You're half Italian half Mexican which not everyone realizes.

Gabriela Cámara: Yes, my mom is Italian. Anyways we would always say, “Oh yeah, we should have this in Mexico City. What a shame we can't eat this in Mexico City.” And one Christmas, he said, “You know what, I'm ready to come back to Mexico. Let's just do this.” Because I was 21, 22 when we actually opened and I was in the middle of university, I had a career, I was a really good student, I was assisting this amazing art historian. My career had a path like I was onto something. But I had this boyfriend, who then I married, who had a cafe and sort of was in that world in a way. In a way that none of us were. So he sort of pushed us to doing this, which I will always be thankful for. Because I really think otherwise I would have never come to this craziness of opening restaurants.

Gabriela Cámara: But anyways, we did it and it was so much fun. And I enjoyed the process so much and I kept on working in my ... I was doing an internship at the National Museum of Art and I was still finishing. I was very much into being a good student and I really enjoyed what I was doing and we opened Contramar and it sort of didn't take over immediately but it did take over a lot of my interest or it really did cover a lot of my interests.

Kerry Diamond: Were you cooking in the beginning? Were you like hosting? What was your job?

Gabriela Cámara: No, it was really interesting because I was like, always overseeing everything and making sure that, oh yeah, these chairs and this painting and this and like my uncle made the mural, and I was sort of in the process of figuring everything out and I was very clear on things that I wanted that I really now don't even know where it came from. And it was very clear that I wanted waiters that were professional waiters. I didn't want like cool servers with piercings and ... yes, because that was happening and I knew I didn't want that. I wanted serious servers. I wanted tablecloths. Even if it was a very simple restaurant, I wanted food to be taken seriously at it. So I didn't want people to go because it was a cool place, but I wanted people to go because it was good food. Because if you ask me now I think that's the perfect motivation to make a restaurant. But then I have no idea I like going to restaurants.

Kerry Diamond: And the story is crazy-

Gabriela Cámara: I know.

Kerry Diamond: ... I mean Contramar is now one of the most important restaurants around. It's 20 years old, which is remarkable.

Gabriela Cámara: Yes, and it's going to be 21 this year.

Kerry Diamond: You were a baby when you opened it, and it's still so relevant and important and changed the restaurant scene. It's crazy. Because I want to know when did someone grab you and say, “Okay, you need to scale this fish, you need to cut this and make some ceviche, you need to do all of these."

Gabriela Cámara: No, because in Mexico also the really cool thing is we found these people that knew how to do it. We got this kid from the beach that in the place that we would always eat the fish. He came to the city, he showed us how to do it. Federico the friend that I opened Contramar with was an amazing cook. He is an amazing cook and so he was really onto the part of the kitchen. And I would come back from my job at downtown Mexico City from the National Museum of Art. And I would come in the afternoons and just sort of half wait tables, half serve things, half make new dishes in the afternoon with him, half expand the menu, make desserts. I mean, it was really so experimental. We had no idea what we were onto. I started taking it really seriously after I made a deal with my partners because I was still studying. And then I got this grant to come and finish my dissertation here in New York, because my dissertation was on the political uses of art. And I was very interested in two exhibitions that had happened here in one at the Museum of Modern Art in 1938, or 1940.

Kerry Diamond: What was the exhibition?

Gabriela Cámara: It was 20 centuries of Mexican art, and then one in 1991 at the Met, which was 30 centuries of Mexican art. So I thought it was very interesting that in 80 years they had added another 10 centuries, from 20 centuries to 30 centuries, but it was all like these very important political moments of Mexican History and Art and anyways, so I made a deal with them. And I said, "Okay, I'm going to go to New York, I got this scholarship, I'm going to go to New York for six months. And then I'll come back and I'll take care of the restaurant on my own for I don't know what period.” And when I started taking care of the restaurant, the restaurant just thrived. And I like everything. We had all these debts that I had no idea about. And I just started getting it all into shape. And I really loved it. I loved every aspect of it, because I love the social part of it.

Gabriela Cámara: I love the challenge of learning about accounting and bookkeeping, and I love the part of actually then having to figure out how to run a kitchen smartly. And I learned about how to deal with the staff and in Mexico it was mostly a staff of men from really rough backgrounds. That of course, did not give a shit about what this white 23 year old idiot girl was telling them. I think one of my biggest assets I think is that I grew up in a small town and in the small town that was, it wasn't like hipster Mexico City. It was very traditional. It's a town that has been very proud of their aztec ancestry. And they were very like zapatistas in the 94 they were totally pro the Zapatista Movement.

Gabriela Cámara: So it was sort of a very traditional town. And they have opposed all these in positions from the government and they were very, very strong town. So I was comfortable dealing with all sorts of people. I wasn't only comfortable dealing with like white educated European looking Mexicans which are a piece of work and they are mainly like I think our like top consumers at Contramar they are ... If you go to Contramar, it is a very public, but it is very much as the Mexicans society is in the city, if the mostly like European looking people are the ones that have the resources to hop around and go to cool places and spend money.

Gabriela Cámara: So in a restaurant, you have to deal with these obnoxious clients, but you also have to deal with the staff that you have. And these people that have had rough lives or that have had to migrate to the city, just as they had to migrate to the United States because the city wasn't enough or they knew somebody in Tennessee, and for them going to Tennessee, or going to Mexico City, is sort of the same thing. You know that LA is a second city with most Mexicans-

Kerry Diamond: Really?

Gabriela Cámara: ... after Mexico City. Isn't that impressive?

Kerry Diamond: Yeah.

Gabriela Cámara: I mean, LA is-

Kerry Diamond: That doesn't surprise me.

Gabriela Cámara: I know. But it has more Mexicans in Monterey. It has more Mexicans in Guadalajara. I mean, LA is packed with Mexicans. The point is sort of the restaurant gave me a platform that I didn't even know was so perfect for me. And I thrived because I had all these people that I knew that would come to the restaurant and that then would just make the restaurant a cool place and ...

Kerry Diamond: It's amazing how it all came together and I wonder now, can young people do the same thing? They can in San Francisco.

Gabriela Cámara: They can in San Francisco for sure. I miss Mexico City so much in that possibility that exists, a city where you feel that things can happen, and that's why so many people are moving down there. But I also think that Mexico City has changed. I mean, this was almost-

Kerry Diamond: Everyone's changing.

Gabriela Cámara: ... 21 years ago. And Mexico City, I do think is still much more vibrant and lively than rich or important cities in the United States. There's still room for doing things. I think there's much more room for experimentation. If I tell you just with how little we made Contramar. And I think of opening a restaurant in New York nowadays, like you couldn't open a restaurant just experimentally, you could do a pop up here or there or whatever. But to actually have a restaurant that is an establishment or that is trying to do serious food, you need to be a real professional, you need to have real money to back it up. I mean, it's really-

Kerry Diamond: I hope somewhere on this country and this planet, we've listeners all over the world, there's that spirit of we can just do this and make it happen. People who are young and kind of spunky, and want to do a cool thing reflective of them and their friends.

Gabriela Cámara: Yeah. I think a really important thing that was relevant to Contramar was that the food was actually really good. And it wasn't pretentious. And I think there have been very good examples of experiments like that in the world in general, many times done by artists that are really passionate about conveying something to their friends, to their community. But many times I think what happens is that they don't have the discipline or the person that can actually make it become an institution, or make it become something that is financially viable. And I really ... like this is no merit of mine. This is just something that I found I had. This is just something that fortunately happened, but could have not happened. And then Contramar could have been like a cool place that lasted three years. What knows?

Kerry Diamond: At what point did you realize you were a good chef?

Gabriela Cámara: You know what, I think I'm a better eater than a chef. And I'm a good chef, because I'm a good eater. I do what I think will be good, and I have a very good knack or a very acute sense of seasoning. So I'm very good at thinking about ingredients together, which I guess makes me a good chef, but I always think-

Kerry Diamond: Let's say I'm a good eater, but I would not call myself a good chef.

Gabriela Cámara: No, but I guess I always think that ... and it sounds super pretentious and I don't think I've ever said it this way. But I guess I have good taste, or whatever is considered good taste in this environment. Because I mean, good taste is relative.

Kerry Diamond: I get the sense you don't like calling yourself a chef. Is that what's going on?

Gabriela Cámara: I just have so much respect for people who are chefs, and who do study to be a chef or who have gone up in the ranks of like, starting as a dishwasher and I just had a restaurant one day, so it feels like a total-

Kerry Diamond: You cut the line?

Gabriela Cámara: Yeah, I totally did.

Kerry Diamond: So has Contramar changed much over the years menu wise?

Gabriela Cámara: I think it's improved, but I don't think it's changed greatly. But I do think it's improved. I mean, I think it's become more radical in that only local fish and only line caught fish and only fish that has been caught by this community of people that will ensure that the species can keep on growing and all this. And I think we always strive at doing things better. But I think the idea was there from the beginning. As I said my mother's Italian and I mean she's a great cook, but she wasn't particularly into cooking. I mean, she's of that generation that she had a PhD and she wanted to be-

Kerry Diamond: I got the sense it wasn't very feminist to be in the kitchen for your mother.

Gabriela Cámara: No, like she was into other things and if the household chores had to be sacrificed, well fine. Thankfully, she got herself a really good husband that was the most, has been, still is the most supportive of her, of us, of everybody.

Kerry Diamond: Your dad made breakfast for you, what did he make?

Gabriela Cámara: Which was a really weird thing for Mexico. Now, I think like most people, most guys in my generation, make breakfast for them for their partners, for their kids, and it's not a surprise. But believe me when I was growing up in people's land, nobody could believe that my father was cooking, nobody. And he's always been a really good cook.

Kerry Diamond: What was he making? I'm dying to know.

Gabriela Cámara: He was making everything. He's a really good eater too. And his mother was an amazing cook. And his sisters are amazing cooks. And they're from a part of Mexico from the southeast. And there's really good food, sort of Campeche, which is like you could take any food. And my grandfather was from Tabasco, so it's that food from that part of the country, which is really sophisticated and rich and not as well known as well, Wahakan food would really, really refined and incredible. Anyways, he was making, I don't know. He was making anything that we wanted. It was also my parents were very liberated people. So we had cookbooks and we could study something and make it. There was no limit to what one could make if you wanted to make it. Not that we would like have like fancy Farsi breakfast one day. But if there was something that we wanted to try, we would experiment with it. And cooking was fun and it was half learning, half what you already did know and tradition and what you had around you.

Kerry Diamond: And I read you were the tortilla maker in the house.

Gabriela Cámara: I was because I was mortified that my mother didn't make tortillas, there was nobody making fresh tortillas in my house. And all the kids I went to school with had fresh tortillas because of their grandmothers or their mothers were making them. Anyways, and I was always very curious about food. I really always did love eating. And I remember asking Victoria the woman who helped us around the house to teach me and she had no patience for a young girl because this is something you grow into. In a town like that you just like one day you're old enough that you have to start making the tortillas but if you're a kid they don't need you around the kitchen. You're bothering the kitchen. So I was always very attentive to Victoria and one day she actually let me start making the tortillas and then since that day, I'm the only person in my house that knows how to make those tortillas. Making tortillas is really difficult, actually.

Kerry Diamond: Are you amazed more and more people are trying to make tortillas at home?

Gabriela Cámara: I love it. I love it because I actually think that there's nothing as good as a fresh tortilla. I do talk about this in my book. I know that traditional cooks will tell you that there's no equivalent to fresh nixtamal made with good heirloom, amazing corn and limestone, that there's no equivalent to that but actually, organic corn masa harina is a very good substitute and it's something you could do at home and you have a bit of ... A cup of that with water and you can make your own fresh tortillas instead of grinding your own corn like putting it to boil and then cooking it with a limestone and bring it to the mill. I mean, that's something that you do. Mills in Mexico are sort of like ovens were in French towns, everybody would make their own bread, but then would go bake it at the communal oven, which was the challenging part to have individually. And that's what a molino used to be.

Gabriela Cámara: And then people would go bring their corn. The corn was ground, you had your masa and then you would have your tortillas or whatever you wanted to make with your corn for the rest of the day. But it's sort of a system that is part of a culture.

Kerry Diamond: Grab your notebooks Bombesquad. We're going back to school this summer with a new podcast mini series Cherry Bombe University. Each week we'll be offering a crash courses taught by your favorite members of the Bombesquad to get you cooking, eating and thinking like the smart cookie you are. Thank you to Le Cordon Bleu for making this series possible. You can learn more about Le Cordon Bleu at cordon Now back to my conversation with Gabriela. You did suggest having a tortilla press at home.

Gabriela Cámara: Totally, because I was saying you can get the organic masa harina and you have more and more options of that. Thankfully, because of the interest in heirloom corn and crops that we have to keep them protecting and then you can just add water and you if you have a tortilla press and a hot pan it doesn't even have to be a sophisticated comal.

Kerry Diamond: You said you could just have a cast iron pan?

Gabriela Cámara: Yes, and you make a fresh tortilla and it is so different from anything you will find in the markets.

Kerry Diamond: Well, I confess I've never made a fresh tortilla but after this I am going to.

Gabriela Cámara: Try and be very careful. You need to be following instructions because it sounds very easy, but you have to be very careful of when you turn them because the key is how to turn the tortilla. So you press it. You first have to make sure that the consistency is sticky enough that it isn't all separate and the dough sticks together, but also loose enough that it actually does make a tortilla, but you need to make sure that it doesn't have so much water that you can't take it from the plastic without it breaking. So you put two pieces of plastic, you put the little ball of dough, like an ounce, you put the other piece of plastic, you press it, you make sure that it's evenly flattened.

Gabriela Cámara: And I would recommend starting with not very thin tortilla because they're easier to cook. So then you just take the first plastic off, it has to peel easily. If it's too wet it won't. And then you take it out with your hand, it six your hand and then you put it on two very hot pan or comal or ...

Kerry Diamond: Is it oiled?

Gabriela Cámara: No. And then as soon as it starts getting opaque at the top, you need to turn it because it needs to keep on cooking and not drying out. So you need to turn it and it will turn like you will be able to turn it and if you only use your fingers because it's too hot and it's something that you sort of need to be used to, use a little spatula? Yeah, you turn it and then that's when it cooks the most. And then when it starts puffing a little bit, you turn it around and that's when it pops up. And when it pops up is when it's-

Kerry Diamond: Done.

Gabriela Cámara: ... done. Perfect.

Kerry Diamond: All right, we're going to make this happen.

Gabriela Cámara: Yes, please.

Kerry Diamond: Given that your mom is Italian and your dad is Mexican, were there any interesting culinary mashups at home?

Gabriela Cámara: Yes. Like fresh pasta with leftover mole, which is my favorite. Like they do comfort foods over the world.

Kerry Diamond: There was an article in the Times even about Mexican food in Africa. It's amazing to see it traveling the globe.

Gabriela Cámara: I know, because it's also really easy even if it's ... and this is something that we should actually look more into. But I think that cheap Mexican food travels so well. That I think it can be accessible to many people.

Kerry Diamond: So you have the Times set a piece called Nairobi embraces its Mexican soul. I mean, it's fascinating to see Mexican food around the globe now.

Gabriela Cámara: Yes, it is really fascinating. The only thing I would say is, I think we should just be mindful of the quality of the food because I do think that a lot of what we consider Mexican food is really bad food in general.

Kerry Diamond: Well, I think that's what's interesting about the book too. The book is so beautiful some people might be intimidated, but when you go through the recipes, there's just a lot of beautiful basic things. So like it's such a good introduction to Mexican food, the sauces, everything. Yeah.

Gabriela Cámara: I really wanted to make something that was not just a beautiful object, but something that people could use.

Kerry Diamond: Yes, it feels like a cookbook, you can 100% work your way forward.

Gabriela Cámara: Good. That's another amazing thing you can ... I love that you see it that way, because that's exactly what I wanted to.

Kerry Diamond: There's so much good practical stuff in here. Like why white onion is more popular. And so many of your recipes call for white onion.

Gabriela Cámara: Exactly. Which is I mean, you could use yellow, purple, other onions or fresh onions or ... it's just that's what is more widely accessible in Mexico. Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: And then you bust some myths about chillies and removing the seeds. Can you tell us about that?

Gabriela Cámara: Well, everybody thinks that chillies are spicy because of the seeds and they are I mean the seeds are spicy but a lot of the spice is also in the veins of the chili. So if you remove the season don't remove the veins the chili is still going to be very, very spicy.

Kerry Diamond: The cover is so beautiful and so colorful. You also have a little love letter to limes in there.

Gabriela Cámara: Well, when they were shooting the first pictures of the book, Lorena Jones, the editor who was extraordinary was calling me and saying, "Gabriela, why are there limes in every picture?" And it really made me realize how in Mexico we use limes for everything and we were shooting in Mexico City. I came back to San Francisco and I met with Lorena and I said, Lorena, you really have to go to Mexico but you're not going to believe it. That's not everything, we use limes for everything, you go to a restaurant, and they bring sort of a bowl of limes for you to add on to any taco or to anything that you're eating. You know how here you get a taco and it has a little slice, in Mexico, you actually get limes with everything. And then we shot this picture. And it grew on me because it really represents something that I really appreciate about Mexican food. And not only the limes but like the freshness and the being able to finish up your dish the way you want to eat it, like adding lime, adding salt, adding sauces.

Gabriela Cámara: In Mexico, you always have sauces and you do whatever. A lot of the way we eat as to do with finishing up the dishes to our own taste, to each person's face. So I think the limes represent that.

Kerry Diamond: It also represents it's me sort of the color and the vibrancy of Mexico City.

Gabriela Cámara: Yeah. And you were just there so you know-

Kerry Diamond: I know.

Gabriela Cámara: ... how vibrant that city is.

Kerry Diamond: So you're doing Onda with our friend Jessica from Sqirl?

Gabriela Cámara: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: How did you two hook up to do a project?

Gabriela Cámara: We hooked up to do a project because we've liked each other for a long time. And we did a few things. Jessica did a pop up at Contramar Ahmad and then she cooked Contramar inspired items for one brunch at sqirl last year. And then she was asked to do this restaurant at the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. And she thought making something with me would be fun and I think she really wants to collaborate with somebody that can be like a colleague for her. I think there's this real need for people in every industry, but in our industry to have more dialogue with. There's a need to be more in touch with other people. And there's a need to be more aware of what other people are doing not just to be up to date with discoveries or new ingredients or new techniques, but just in terms of like, camaraderie of just being colleagues and understanding how one does this one how one does the other. I don't know.

Gabriela Cámara: We met during this conference in Copenhagen at MAD and her husband came to me and he said, "Oh, my goodness, you and Jessica are going to be such good friends. And you need to meet each other." And we did. We really liked each other. And it's been a challenge because I have been busier than ever. And last year, I was invited to start working with the new president of Mexico, who went into office this last December. So I'm sort of putting my every bit of life together so that I can.. so I was invited to be the head of this board, it's the board for the promotion of tourism. And I was invited to do that right after he was elected. And in Mexican politics, I don't know why, but there's a really long period of transition. So the new president is elected in July, early July, and then goes into office early December. So there are six months of transition period, which is basically where all the fraudulent things are solved, or put together or covered so that the next president starts clean.

Gabriela Cámara: Anyways, in this period, I started looking into this board and this board basically gets $25 from each person who travels by plane and to Mexico, any part of the country. So it's a lot of money. Anyways, I started looking into this and of course, I mean, I really believe that Mexico needs a new political leadership. I really do believe that this guy is very good on many grounds. I trust him. He is not corrupt and it is very important for Mexico to not have a corrupt president for the first time in who knows what. And I really want to help him. So I said, "Okay, let's start looking into this." And this apparatus was a huge office. And I really one day said, this is made to steal money. This is an office that was set up long before social media and internet and the accessibility to information that we have now.

Gabriela Cámara: So you could actually promote a country very smartly nowadays with 10 good people and agencies here and there that you would hire or not even you probably don't even need that. And this was an office of 250 people, more than 300 external contractors, 21 International offices, and I told the president, "I think we need to shut this down because all this money that you want to use for the Mayan train because there's this project of a Mayan train is going to come from this board. So there's no reason to keep the board as it is. We need to do something more flexible, more agile, whatever." Anyway, so I shut down this thing that I was going to direct. And after that, he just said, "Okay, fine." So I was like, "Great, I'm done. I can go back to doing my things." And he was like," No, I you as an advisor."

Kerry Diamond: It's a big deal.

Gabriela Cámara: I know.

Kerry Diamond: You're an advisor to the president.

Gabriela Cámara: It's a big deal. And it hasn't started officially because I still have all this going on that I can't just dropped. But I will go back to living in Mexico. And I will start doing whatever I can to help him be a better president. And I will do everything that I can to sort of enforce food policies that we know are better for the world. Mexico has a huge health problem that has to do with food, ironically, being the country or the geographical area of where corn is from, and tomatoes and squash and be in so many things. And we have the second largest population with child obesity. And I really believe that eating well can make a huge difference. I mean, it's not that I believe it, we know that eating well can really make a difference in people's lives, and having sustainable agriculture and farming practices. And with industrial agriculture, it's really gone down the drain bad. We've taken the worst from the United States. I'm sorry to say. Anyways-

Kerry Diamond: I know.

Gabriela Cámara: ... I do look forward to going back to Mexico and I don't know in what capacity I will work with the president, because he wants me to work with him. But I've told him, "Okay, I need to just go finish doing my book thing and then we'll figure out what exactly it is I will do."

Kerry Diamond: Gosh, you need to clone yourself.

Gabriela Cámara: I know.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my god.

Gabriela Cámara: But I have hired an executive chef for the first time ever which is amazing.

Kerry Diamond: For which restaurant?

Gabriela Cámara: For everything.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. When can we expect Onda to open?

Gabriela Cámara: Onda is going to open this summer.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, so excited.

Gabriela Cámara: July. It's scheduled for July and it's in the proper hotel so it's a very serious project. They're opening the new-

Kerry Diamond: Mark your calendars that is July in Los Angeles.

Gabriela Cámara: ... yeah, July in Los Angeles.

Kerry Diamond: Who are your role models in food?

Gabriela Cámara: It's so classic that I'm sort of embarrassed but Diana Kennedy, Alice Waters, my grandmother's, people who cook in practical ways, people who have to cook every day for a family, people who have to cook every day for their office, people who actually cook because they yes, have to do it but also really enjoy it and do it in a way that is smart and practical and sustainable and...

Kerry Diamond: I only asked because hearing you talk about all the things that you want to do for Mexico for an entire country, entire population of people. You know, Jose Andres comes to mind.

Gabriela Cámara: Oh, my goodness, I admire him so much. And I love him.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. And I think we always talk about how food can change lives and change the world. And I think now we're really seeing it.

Gabriela Cámara: Totally.

Kerry Diamond: I mean, he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Gabriela Cámara: I know. And he should get it. He totally should get it because he really has brought attention to food in a way that has gone beyond. And I saw Jose Andres for the first time in a food conference in Spain, maybe 15 years ago in a Madrid Fusión which is this ... It was all about molecular gastronomy, you know, Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Jose Andres. Thomas Keller, and Charlie Trotter were the two American guests.

Gabriela Cámara: And it was all about super, super, super high end sophisticated technically challenging cuisine. And Jose Andres took it to this level of social justice, which I think-

Kerry Diamond: 15 years ago.

Gabriela Cámara: ... 15 years ago, he wasn't even into this. He was part of this group of fancy Spanish chefs, all these guys, of course, not one woman, it didn't even occur to me that that was an issue, right? And when my daughter Elena was around, it was like, oh, great it's the daughter so bad. We were all these women working for them with them around them, but not the stars ever. Anyways, I really think that the United States gives people who want to see an amazing perspective and an amazing opportunity to make change in a way that other countries don't sort of establish it in such a straightforward way. For example, in Mexico, you can do many things, and you can do many things very well. But in the United States, you have clear paths of being able to create change and the change being impactful because you have all these NGOs that actually are already doing things for immigrants, things for people in conditions.

Gabriela Cámara: I mean it, I guess it's because it's a country with more resources. But I've spoken about this with Jose. And when he came to the United States, this awareness of how much he could do for this population of immigrants who he was hiring, and every restaurant tour was hiring. In New York, everybody had to learn Spanish because you had people from Puebla working here. And none of them actually were making a statement or thinking of how to make that better. And I think Jose Andres was both for circumstances of his own incredible being, but also because he was sort of forced into thinking and actually acting on these issues, that he became very aware of his power as the public figure and of his power as such a fancy or recognized chef. And I think if he's such an inspiration, I really, really, really love him. I think he's wonderful.

Kerry Diamond: On the topic of Jose and you looking up to him in all the things that you're doing, I think it's so wonderful and so important because the whole point of representation, we had a young chef here the other day, Kia Damon who's cooking at Lalito. And I was talking about how Jody Adams a chef from Boston Oh, he said, If you can't see it, you can't be it. And she was saying exactly, and there aren't a ton of Jose Andres level women, for women in this industry to look up to. So I'm really happy to hear about what you're doing. You could easily just kick back and make beautiful food, but instead you're trying to make the world a more beautiful place and you're really a role model for all of us.

Gabriela Cámara: I mean, I hope to do more but-

Kerry Diamond: I hope you can.

Gabriela Cámara: ... I'm very honored that you think I'm a good role model.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Gabriela for speaking with me. Be sure to check out her brand new cookbook, My Mexico City Kitchen. And if you find yourself in San Francisco, Mexico City or Los Angeles this summer, try to go to one of her wonderful restaurants. Thank you to our sponsor, Handsome Brook Farm Pasture Raised Organic Eggs for supporting this season of Radio Cherry Bombe. You folks are excellent. Radio Cherry Bombe is a production of Cherry Bombe media. Our show is edited, engineered and produced by Jess Zeidman and our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Thanks for listening, everybody. You're the bomb.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Jen Jacobs: Hi, I'm Jen Jacobs, the owner and Baker at Wandering Whisk Bakeshop in St. Pete, Florida. Do you want to know who I think is the bombe? Molly Yeh. She's not only a cookbook author and an award winning food blogger, but she has her own Food Network show, Girl Meets farm. After long days around sugar I love making Molly savory recipes that are a mix of her Chinese and Jewish heritage. Plus, I found someone that's as crazy about sprinkles as I am.