One of the country’s foremost authorities on regional Mexican cooking, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza has earned a gilded reputation since first opening the original Barrio Cafe on 16th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix, 2002.
Chef Silvana comes from a long line of bakers. The Salcido family has a rich heritage that dates back to medieval Spain where they were the official pastry chefs for King Ferdinand. They immigrated to the New World, to Mexico, in the 1600s and reached Los Angeles shortly after World War II. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza was born in L.A. and raised in Merced, CA, surrounded by some of the richest land in the world – the San Joaquin Valley. She was brought up in a three-generation household and her time was spent working alongside family in their bakeries, delivering bread to the campesinos and minding her parents small store.
Chef Silvana’s family frequently crossed the border to procure hard-to-find Mexican staples, which they offered for re-sale in their retail bakery. Handmade baked goods and homemade tortillas sat alongside novellas, prayer candles and medicinas. Her parents’ customers included everyone in the area, their American neighbors next door, and the waves of Mexican workers who migrated through the Valley seasonally.
Chef Silvana moved to Arizona and continued the legacy of her entrepreneurial family, but she did it her way and became a chef. She opened the celebrated Barrio Café in 2002 and has offered award-winning Mexican food ever since. Serving elevated Mexican cuisine with flair all her own, she is now considered one of the best Mexican chefs in the city country.
Since 2002, Salcido-Esparza has been nominated four times for the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious award for Best Chef Southwest. She was inducted into Arizona’s Culinary Hall of Fame in 2004 and, ten years later was named Dynamic Women in Business by the Business Journal, all a while managing to raise 2 boys and create and open seven concepts in the Phoenix area.