Hot Chef: JC Piña cooks authentic Mexican on Washington Ave.

JC Pina, formerly of Morimoto, opened Cafe Ynez on the upcoming Washington Ave. corridor.  Photo provided
JC Pina, formerly of Morimoto, opened Cafe Ynez on Washington Ave. 
Photo provided

Formerly of Jet Wine Bar, Tinto and Morimoto, Chef JC Piña is no stranger to the Philly food scene. He’s now a part of what we’re hoping will be an emerging restaurant row — the Washington Ave. corridor. Café Ynez opened earlier this spring and has been attracting guests as a small spot BYOB.

What do you think about Café Ynez opening up on the Washington Ave. corridor? Do you think we’ll see other restaurants start to follow?
I love that we are able to bring a new wave of Mexican to Philadelphia. It’s more new school but still authentic, but served in a pleasant and stylish atmosphere. I truly hope that other restaurants start exploring this side of Washington Ave. because there is so much potential here.

Before this you were at Jet Wine Bar, Tinto and Morimoto. What do you get to do at Café Ynez that you wouldn’t be able to do in other kitchens?
Those restaurants were great experiences and acted as my training ground. Now at Café Ynez I get to create my own recipes and run my own kitchen. I love that I can bring the food I love, the food of my people, to my Philadelphia community.

What’s the menu like?
This is fresh, authentic Mexican — recipes that my mother taught me growing up in Mexico City. We have traditional items that people are used to, but we’re also incorporating more unique flavors and spices into our recipes. The towns I grew up in around Mexico City are my true inspiration. These are the recipes that I remember from my childhood.

Do you have a favorite ingredient to use?
I love using traditional Mexican spices and fresh ingredients in unexpected ways. Exploring combinations and creating new flavors, while staying true to my roots, is my real passion.

How long have you been in Philly?
Eleven years! I live in South Philly and I love that I live in a community surrounded by my family.


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