One of the most exciting series of Awards presented by the James Beard Foundation annually is the America’s Classics. This honor is given to regional establishments, often family-owned, that are treasured for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal. One of the five recipients for 2015 is Los Angeles’ Guelaguetza located in Koreatown and founded in 1994. This year’s honorees will be celebrated at the 25th anniversary James Beard Foundation Awards taking place on Monday, May 4th at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Bricia Lopez, one of the four children of Fernando Lopez and Maria de Jesus, now runs the restaurant along with her brother, Fernando Lopez, Jr., and her sister, Paulina Lopez. They have added a mescal bar and often bring in top producers from Mexico for seminars. The real star, however, remains the soulful Oaxacan food, including enfrijolados, tamales steamed in banana leaves with mole, bowls of goat stew, and big rounds of tiayudas, baked corn tortillas topped with semi-dried beef, Oaxacan cheese, and sometimes even grasshoppers.
Bricia and Fernando talk about how they all work together at Guelaguetza and what restaurants are on the dining list for the time they will be in Chicago for The Beard Awards. Their sister, Paulina, also is in the business keeping the books. Fernando explains the mystery of how Guelaguetza, a Oaxacan restaurant, came to be located in Koreatown.