Chef LaToya Larkin who owns the Houston restaurant, Black Girl Tamales, is all about fusing Southern soul food with Mexican staples. Her food also pays homage to her ancestors while gaining its own modern-day fanbase. Here, she talks about her passion for tamales, her advice for young women entrepreneurs and what dream guest she’d love to cook for.
So, tell us, why tamales?
I grew up making tamales with my grandmother. I started making them again after she passed away. At first I used to just make them for the family, but then I started selling them. I realized that everyone loves a good tamale and started thinking outside the box. How can I set myself aside from everyone that makes tamales? I thought of things that go well with cornbread besides the traditional chicken and pork. My first fusion flavor was Collard Greens and Smoked Turkey, which is my #1 seller. Next came the other flavors: Smothered Pork Chop, Oxtail, Smothered Chicken, Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, Shrimp Etouffee, Nacho, Red Beans and Rice. I then upgraded the flavors on the traditional pork and chicken to Blood Orange Pork Carnitas and Chicken Fajita. So, all in all, I make tamales because it’s a part of me as well as my grandmother’s legacy. I’m simply following the path my ancestors have paved for me to do things beyond my wildest dreams that they never could imagine would be possible for a black woman.
What’s the best way to eat a tamale?
With either roasted green salsa or loaded with chili and cheese or etouffee (shrimp/crawfish) and rice.
Other than tamales, what other dishes are popular at Black Girl Tamales?
Enchiladas! The Collard Green and Crab enchiladas are made of tender collard greens and fresh crabmeat topped with Pesto Alfredo sauce and Monterey Jack Cheese.There is also the enchilada made of Creole Sausage – New Orleans Patton Hot Sausage – topped with my signature brown enchilada sauce and Colby Jack Cheese.
Any words of advice for a young, female entrepreneur like yourself?
My advice is to not be afraid to take chances and live your life with no regrets. Never stop blazing the trail you’re traveling down.Treat all mistakes as lessons to learn and grow from. Experiences in life mold and shape you into the person you are and will grow into later in life. Do things that are pleasing to GOD and do what makes you HAPPY. You can’t live for anyone else, so live for yourself responsibly and care free.
What are some challenges that you find female chefs of color face?
I had to work much harder than my male counterparts in a predominantly white and male industry despite having more education and equal work experience. While experiencing that challenge in the industry, it led me to the driving force and passion behind my entrepreneurial spirit to create my own culinary opportunities, and eventually, a brand/concept that allowed me to set my own table while building a legacy.
Do you have someone you’d one day like to make a tamale for?
Yes! Michelle Obama. I heard she loves tamales and I would love for her to try my fusion tamale concept. So if anybody knows anyone from her camp, let her know Black Girl Tamales in Houston is waiting to serve up her favorite and I know it will be something she would enjoy.
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