Hot chef: Sam Richman’s Mexican flavors

Sam Richman brings Mexico to DUMBO at Gran Electrica (5 Front St., 718-852-2789). The wallpaper was custom-made for the restaurant — it depicts old Day of the Dead art reimagined for modern-day Brooklyn.

It was a trip to Mexico that sealed the deal for chef Sam Richman.

“I wanted to take some time off and just not cook for a couple months, so I went to Mexico with a friend of mine … You work in a kitchen for a long time, some things start to become routine. In Mexico, after I was there for a couple of weeks and eating some really, really amazing food, I just had this feeling that I really, really want to cook — I liked this food so much that I was inspired to make it myself.”

Richman is now manning the kitchen at Gran Electrica, a DUMBO hotspot where, sure, you’ll find tacos and flan, but if you’re curious, you can also experience regional Mexican flavors like those Richman found on his travels abroad.

How do you make sure your cooking is authentic Mexican?

Having gone to Mexico and tasted amazing tortillas, and not just tortillas but all the other things you do with masa … you have to get the tortilla stuff right because that is the foundation of the cuisine. We’re so fortunate — I don’t know how we could go about doing this without having Tortilleria Nixtamal  in New York… [They] make tortillas from freshly ground masa instead of using masa flour.

How do you think some Mexican restaurants could be better?

My favorite spots are generally little hole-in-the-wall places because the flavors generally are correct. It tastes amazing, but they’re not really using great ingredients. I don’t really feel responsible as an eater eating them, and I don’t think you can make great food with inferior ingredients.

What would you cook to impress a date?

Does it have to be Mexican? At the moment I would probably make a tomato salad, which is the best thing you could eat right now. Now is definitely the time to indulge in them as they won’t be around much longer. The best tomatoes don’t really need much else — a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a splash of sherry.


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