Munchery Grilled ChorizoBurger

Food is a vehicle for many things such as sustenance, health, nutrition, pleasure, celebration and more. As a chef, I often think about the connection between food and culture, particularly in the context of my birthplace, Guatemala.

Over a decade ago, I moved from Guatemala to Los Angeles in pursuit of the American dream. Like many immigrants, I hoped for a better life, from career opportunities to overall self-improvement. In my youth, I chased adventure and avoided responsibility, and moving to America was my chance to start over.

Living in a new land with cultures of which I was unaccustomed was a difficult experience. I got a job as a dishwasher at the Shangri-La in Santa Monica, but it seemed like a step in the wrong direction. After all, back in Guatemala, I’d had a good job as an accountant at one of the largest beer companies in Central America. My grandfather had always encouraged me to do the best I could, even in the worst situations. “If your job is sweeping the floor,” he’d say, “then be the best at sweeping the floor.” I kept this in mind as I worked my way through the ranks, from dishwasher to salad station to line cook — and eventually to sous chef here at Munchery.

Naturally, the dishes I create are often inspired by Guatemalan cuisine, which is derived from Spanish and Mayan food. Beans, corn, tomatoes, coffee, spices, onions, chiles and fresh handmade tortillas are a few of the staple ingredients you’ll find in most Guatemalan dishes, and they’re the essential components of my cooking, as well.

One of my favorite creations at Munchery is the Grilled ChorizoBurger because it represents a nice combination of Guatemalan and American cultures. For the patty, I mix Smoky Spanish chorizo and cilantro with ground beef and parmesan, which I grill to medium-rare. Then I top with pepper jack cheese, tomato, and red onion. The burger’s finishing touch is a dollop of secret sauce spiced with aji amarillo, an Incan hot yellow pepper paste.

The result: quintessential American burger meets quintessential Guatemalan flavors, all singing in harmony. It’s not unlike the person I am today.

Gerber Juarez

Posted by Gerber Juarez

Gerber Juarez is a Sous Chef at Munchery, Los Angeles. While many chefs can boast fancy culinary schools on their resume, chef Juarez learned to cook the way top chefs used to— he started at the bottom and worked his way up, learning every step of the way. He was born in Guatemala and moved to LA with his family looking for the American Dream. Once in Los Angeles, he realized that food might be the best path for him, so he got a job washing dishes at the Shangri-La in Santa Monica. After a few years, he moved on to other note-worthy restaurants such as Barbrix and Caulfield’s, the later which he says was where he turned his love of cooking into more than just a job. When asked what he hopes to contribute to Munchery’s menu, Chef Juarez said: “I love the food scene in LA because it doesn’t have limits. From street food to fancy restaurants, the diversity of food is everywhere. And cooking for Munchery means we can bring all of that influence to the same menu.”

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