Along with chef Baruch Rabasa, Christian Dischler runs the Mexico City-inspired brunch pop-up Chilango NOLA (www.facebook.com/chilangonola) at The Franklin (2600 Dauphine St., 504-267-0640; www.thefranklinnola.com). Rabasa was born in Mexico City, and the two met while working at the now-closed Meson 923. Both then worked at Atchafalaya, and in January, the duo started the weekly brunch gig, churning out a variety of Latin-inspired dishes on Sunday mornings. Dischler spoke with Gambit about cooking Mexican food and running a pop-up.
How did you get started cooking Mexican food?
Dischler: I always say my favorite thing to cook is something I've never cooked before. I'm always looking for something new, something challenging. But I didn't necessarily envision myself opening up a Mexican brunch pop-up or a pop-up at all.
We really just wanted to do something different; we felt like all the brunches out there, they were doing the same thing. We wanted to do something a little more down to earth but keep it authentic at the same time. We didn't want to go over the top with New Orleans food either; we love this city but there's a lot of that going around already.
(Rabasa) was born in Mexico City and raised there part of his life. So he was pretty familiar with a lot of the dishes, and I was eager to learn.
What exactly is Mexico City-inspired food?
D: A lot of people are confused as to what food from Mexico actually is. It's not Tex-Mex, and what you get from northern Mexico, near the border, is different too. A lot of the foods from (Mexico) have the same name but it's all regional and differs from place to place. You could have one dish here and it could taste completely different from another dish with the same name [elsewhere].
(At Chilango NOLA) we dance around and play around with different regions. It's a little more refined and creative but it's still very Mexican. In Mexico City, there's lots of little cafes and lots of little breakfast shops, and we are kind of going after that idea. It's laid back and relaxed.
Almost everything on the menu is gluten-free because it's all corn-based, except for the French toast.
We serve chicken taquitos with a frisee salad, bacon vinaigrette and bacon lardons before topping it off with guacamole and a poached egg. Our take on carnitas is in a dish called huarache, which is a type of sandal. It's a little corn cake we make and fill with refried beans and slow-cooked carnitas, two poached eggs and a jalapeno hollandaise.
How does running a pop-up differ from regular restaurant work?
D: It's really different, and at first it was kind of disorienting. I'm coming from being in kitchens for the majority of my life, where you pretty much never leave, it becomes your home, in a way. So it's strange at first — being in someone else's space. We want to be neat, we don't want to get in anyone's way. But it's nice, really. We come in, we cook and when we're done we're done. We clean up and leave. We don't want to overextend our welcome.
But I work here (at The Franklin) as well, so it's a very symbiotic relationship, I help them and they help me. I guess the dream is to eventually get our own space, really do our own things.
Social media and networking have been huge for us, and I get to interact with a lot more people that way. I think it has opened up a lot of new avenues for us instead of the old-fashioned way of relying on just word of mouth.