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Cinco Celebrations

Cinco Celebrations
Chorizo and Collard Greens Empanadas / Photo by Josh Meridith


Growing up on a farm in California, I was surrounded by two wonderful things: fresh food, and family. Everything literally grew on the trees and vines: tomatoes, citrus, olives, chiles, and avocados (which we call Latino butter). I have great memories of big gatherings of extended family and cousins where we would make a campfire and roast a goat or a pig. Latino’s in general try to make a party out of everything, even a kid’s two-year-old birthday party!

Photos By Josh Merideth
Photo by Josh Meridith

So you can imagine that the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) was celebrated in style! In California, it was really a statewide celebration. Regardless of heritage (Latino or not), the schools really played it up with everyone dressing up in brightly colored costumes. There were traditional dances, piñatas, historical displays (of Mexican arts and the Aztecs), special food carts. Of course I loved it for selfish reasons – we got out of school early! But I also loved the energy and the tradition and the celebration of cuisine.

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of freedom. It commemorates the day that the Mexican Militia defeated the French Army at The Battle of Puebla (May 5, 1862). Some people mistakenly call it Mexican Independence Day, but that is actually September 15th, the day Mexico declared its independence from Spain, so that’s a another big holiday.

I am a product of multiple cultures. My mother is Spanish and Mexican, my father is Puerto Rican, I myself grew up in California, and now I’m living with my wife and two boys in Louisville, Kentucky, where I have my restaurant Seviche. So it’s no surprise that my cuisine is a reflection of all of these things. Some food critics call it “Nuevo Latino.” I take classic dishes (including my mother’s and grandmother’s) and modernize or “elevate” them with innovative techniques and local, Southern ingredients.

Here in Kentucky, the Hispanic population is obviously not as large as in California, and I miss my extended family, but I want to show my sons (ages 3 and 5) the wonderful traditions that I grew up with, so I try to create a celebration at my restaurant. Here are a few of my favorite recipes and festive drinks to help you throw your own fiesta!

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Tequila Shrimp

Chorizo and Collard Greens Empanada

Vera Cruz Style Ceviche with Jalapeño, Green Olive, and Roasted Tomato Citrus Broth

Conchinita Pibil

Tres Leches

Horchata Ice Cream


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