Meet Chef Julian Medina — The Adventurous Technician of New York’s Mexican Food Scene

If you love Mexican cuisine and you haven’t heard of the acclaimed chef Julian Medina, you are definitely missing out! Professionally trained in French cooking, chef Julian has been concentrating a world of techniques into Mexican ingredients to create various concepts that represent his version of refined Mexican food since 1999.

Chef Medina at Bowl of ‘Zole 2022. (Photo by @dannyhecho)

Food Karma: Can you tell us more about yourself and your long culinary career?

Chef Julian Medina: I had a passion for cooking when I was very young — like 16 or 17 years old. It was not such a popular career in Mexico back then and there were only 1 or 2 culinary schools that you could go to. And when my friends were going to college to pursue a career, I went to a restaurant to train and work as a helper, because I wanted to know if I was gonna like it or not before I dedicated 100% of my time to it. And yes, indeed I loved it! The kitchen, the adrenaline and the passion for it — everything. 

Then I went on working at a French restaurant in Mexico City as a cook. And I climbed my way up to become a sous chef, before deciding that I need new challenges. So I came to New York 25 years ago and worked in different restaurants for a year before going to the French Culinary Institute. 

My passion for cooking started in Mexico, but it’s funny because when I was hired to open a Mexican restaurant, I didn’t know much about Mexican cuisine or cooking because you know, my background was in French cooking! So I started combining the French techniques with Mexican ingredients, and it was just so much fun to do so.

FK: How exactly have you been doing that?

JM: I usually modify a few French recipes — ranging from reductions, sauces and aioli — with Mexican ingredients. For example, for a wine reduction instead of French wine I would use Mexican wine or mezcal. I also use these sometimes to do flambé with the shrimps and fish. It just comes naturally to me as a Mexican and a classically French-trained chef.

FK: Is this the team that you will bring to Bowl of ‘Zole 2022?

JM: Yes! And I’m also bringing those from La Chula — a taqueria in the style of Mexico City I created with Meghan Manzi. She is a really good cook and we developed together a very straightforward Mexican menu where we have shrimp tacos with melted cheese, birria tacos, tortas, nachos and burritos. We have three locations — one in Harlem, one in Washington Heights in a food hall and one in Terminal B of LaGuardia Airport.

FK: Sounds like a great lineup! Would you like to share more about the dishes you will be serving at the event?

JM: The pozole from Toloache will be a take on ramen but we are making it with pozole. We are using pork bone, the chile guajillo and a little bit of miso. We are also doing a porchetta with pozole corn to create the umami with all of them. The team from La Chula will bring along taco al pastor as well. In it there will be shaved pork, salsa morita, onion and pineapple.

FK: How do you think people will react to your food at Bowl of ‘Zole 2022?

JM: Taco al pastor is a pretty straightforward taco in Mexico so I think everyone will love that. Plus I have one of my chefs shaving the pork to order so it will be kind of dramatic but also traditional and authentic.

FK: Do you have any expectations for the event?

JM: This is the third year that we are doing Bowl of ‘Zole. I really like the vibe of the event because it’s a little chilly out, people can enjoy nice hot pozoles and mezcals, lots of restaurants showcasing their techniques and traditions to make the same popular dishes in Mexico. It’s just a really well-balanced event. I just want to go and enjoy, have fun and see my chef friends while trying out different varieties of mezcals and tequilas! 

There are still a few more months till both Brisket King and Rib King 2023, but our holiday-exclusive for Bowl of ‘Zole is coming soon to Denver on March 30 and Boston on April 12. In the meantime, you can follow and support chef Medina by visiting his many restaurants in New York City or his website and social media account.