Embrace, Celebrate, And Indulge In The Rich Flavors Of Hispanic Heritage: Harlem’s Cultural Delights Await

October 31, 2023

By Chef Julian Medina

Following Hispanic Heritage Month, which ended October 15th, 2023, I find myself reflecting on my journey as a chef and the ways in which I’ve been able to tap into my Hispanic heritage through my recipes and my restaurants, including La Chula Taqueria in El Barrio.

In addition to my culinary creations, I’ve been able to celebrate my culture and build community through digital platforms like Facebook and Instagram – sharing my story, connecting with my customers throughout Harlem, and reaching new patrons beyond Manhattan’s shores.

In a world teeming with nearly unlimited choices, the flavors that resonate most deeply often have a story to tell. Food is more than just sustenance; it’s a cultural marker, a connection to our roots, and a celebration of the rich tapestry that makes up our diverse world.

When I opened La Chula Taqueria in 2017, my mission was simple, to showcase my Mexican heritage through food and drink, and bring an inviting space to East Harlem. In doing so, I aimed to provide more than just a taco counter. I wanted to create a place to congregate and enjoy authentic Mexican tacos, unique menu items, Micheladas, and margaritas with fresh fruit. Opening this restaurant was not just about food – it was also about celebrating the rich history of El Barrio and fostering a sense of community.

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Raised and professionally trained in Mexico City, I was inspired by my father’s and grandfather’s authentic home cooking at an early age. When I arrived in New York City, I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute. I used to come to El Barrio to purchase mole and other Mexican staples for my restaurants. Now, as the chef-owner of a growing number of restaurants across New York City, I have been creating refined Mexican cuisine in the United States for more than 20 years.

Beyond a strong connection to the rich traditions of Mexico City – and of course, good food – one of the most important tools for sharing my story and building community interest in my restaurants has been social media. During the challenging days of the pandemic, these platforms became a lifeline, not only for me but for countless businesses around the world. They allowed us to share our stories and stay connected with our patrons.

Since then, I have been able to open another location for La Chula in Harlem, at the Northend Food Hall in Washington Heights. Digital platforms have been key to raising awareness of and to the success of that location, too.

Today, social media is one of the primary ways we share our cultural traditions and are able to reach new audiences. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have become indispensable tools for me to pique curiosity, create a following, and attract customers from all over New York City.

Our online presence, especially our Instagram Reels, serve as a bridge, connecting the digital world to our real-life community. We share cooking tips, behind-the-scenes glimpses of how many of our traditional dishes are prepared, and snippets of the lively atmosphere at La Chula, all of which are influenced by our Mexican roots. It isn’t just about promoting the business; it is about connecting with the people who make New York City the vibrant community that it is.

Let us remember that our cultural roots are to be preserved, cherished, and celebrated. Whether through food, art, or sharing our experiences on social media, let us continue to spotlight and share the bounty of our Hispanic heritage with the world.

Julian Medina 

Julian Medina is the acclaimed chef-owner of Toloache, Coppelia, Tacuba, La Chula Taqueria, El Fish Marisqueria, and El Verano Southampton. https://www.instagram.com/chefmedinanyc/

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