How the World’s Most Authentic Tex-Mex is Made — Cooking in America

How the World’s Most Authentic Tex-Mex is Made — Cooking in America


– If you go back in history,
it’s crazy to think that some of the first immigrants to Houston was from the United States. This was part of Mexico, still. We’re gonna be going to
the original Ninfa’s. The originator of the
fajita and we’re gonna meet with Chef Alex Padilla who has
cooked all around the world. This guy has spent 18 years in fine dining and now he’s come back to Houston. Back to his home. – Ninfa’s is an iconic place.
– Right. – For all the restaurants in Houston, this is the mothership. This is where fajitas got
invented by Mama Ninfas. It is where–
– Whoo! We go through these, 135
thousand pounds, a year. – No wonder you need a
grill the size of Texas. – [Alex] You can see
where we cooked the fat at just to keep the fat
running into the meat. – This is straight wood, no? – Straight wood. – [Sheldon] Wood burning grill. – [Alex] But, right now we’re
using mesquite and almond. Fajita is just the name in Spanish, but this is outside skirt. – [Sheldon] In English. – Back in the day, this
was a very underappreciated piece of meat and somebody found out it was the best piece of meat. It’s super flavor, super tender. This restaurant opened up in 1973. And this is how it did start. Selling tacos through a window. Now, I feel like I’m living my dream the way this place turned. (upbeat music) Welcome to Houston.
(laughing) What do you think about
the Mexican candies? (laughing) Whoo! – Chef tryin’ to kill me right now. You originally from Houston? – Honduras. – From Honduras. And then you came here when
you were 16 years old. – My mom worked for Ninfa’s in the 80s. – In the 80s. – Single mother. Being the oldest, three
sisters and myself, they seen me like the older
brother slash daddy, you know? Forced me to learn how
to cook at the early age. It wasn’t easy. We struggled a lot. I moved to New Jersey, New York, and I end up in California. When I met Nancy Oakes. Before Boulevard, Nancy used to have a little hole-in-the-wall. We used to have only 13 tables. We used to call that L’Avenue. I was, barely, 18. – Yeah, 18 years old standing
next to one of the most iconic chefs in America, Nancy Oakes. What was it like cooking next to her? – Let me put it this way,
there was only 13 tables. Everybody was pastry chef,
everybody was a dishwasher, everybody was butcher. That’s how I started, you know. – Get some training grounds, though. You got to see all of that. – In three months, I was
already on the grill. In the morning, you know,
I was the butcher guy. Four years later, we moved
to 300 seat restaurant. And I was the executive sous-chef. I would see Nancy like my mom and she would see my like
her son that she never had. This is a street food,
taking it to another level. Got a little bit of lime,
cilantro, white pepper, chipotle. This is Cotija cheese. This is the most ridiculous
part on this dish, mezcal. Look at this. Elote Borrache y Loco. Crazy and drunk. Cheers, my friends. (speaking in foreign language) You feel like that corn right now. – You blowing my mind right now, Chef. When I was thinking of Tex-Mex, I didn’t know what to expect. 18 years in fine dining, putting
that technique behind it. It’s delicious. 6,000 tortillas a day. Chef, she doing five at a time over there. – You go like this. Like, if you’re making
a dumpling or crepe. You do this really gently. – She’s going so fast. – If you can beat her,
you can have the job. – That’s why I make Filipino food. – This is a Hawaiian tortilla. This is, like, a Hawaiian map. – Sell me out, Chef. The magic is in the hands, right? – It’s in the touch.
– Yeah. – You put in your heart. – Why still do it from scratch, Chef? – Early age, you see this, you know? Your aunt, your mom,
your grandma, making it. So, wanna keep the tradition. – You cooking here. What about mom? She raised the family
through here and then– – Her life is right here, yeah. – Yeah, you’re doing the same. – I was, like, almost in tears
when I saw this place again. You gotta love this place. You gotta feel it. That’s why in every meal,
we put everything, man. (upbeat, heavy bass music) – Even the tortillas made fresh everyday. – Now, this is the one you
tried to make, right here. – See, it turned out alright. Maybe not that perfect
circle, but it’s okay. – From cooking foie gras, the best caviar, I’m eating fajitas now. But, what is behind the
fajitas is the history and I’m part of that. – We take for granted of
how diverse Houston is now. Was it like that back in the day? – 20 years ago, Houston was empty. Now, Houston is like a
chocolate melting pot. We’re so lucky here. We want Mexican food one day,
Hawaiian food, Chinese food, Italian food, French food, you name it. It’s all in Houston now. In San Francisco, I spent 18 years. – 18 years in San Francisco? – That makes me take
the job too, you know. Family and I saw my mom, my sisters. And after six months, I
started changing little, little, little, little, little things. Quality, techniques. I like to train dishwashers. I like to train prep cooks
and move those guys on. I see those guys the same way I went through many years back. – You’re the Nancy Oakes
of Houston right now. (laughing) – She’s prettier than me. (laughing) I would like to show you the new stuff. Let’s start with the blue
crab, jumbo lump crab cake. And it’s coming from
the wood burning oven. With chipotle sauce and pasilla pepper. On this side, we’ve got confit duck. A jicima-mango and cucumber with Queen’s paste and raspberry sauce. This is octopus from Spain. Sous-vide style and you
can make tacos out of it. – [Sheldon] Definitely
taking it to the next level. – This is from the gulf. Which is right behind us. – Aw man, that’s delicious. The sous-vide is so tender. And then the duck confit,
classic French style, yeah. We went from the O.G. fajitas and then we’re doing duck confit tacos. I love it. Still feels like a spot
that is of the neighborhood but you’re inserting all of these flavors that are super creative. Your food and your story is
what this city is built upon. You’re a guy from Honduras making Tex-Mex. – You know with European
training and American and I chose to work with Latin flavors. And make the original Ninfa’s, one of the best restaurants in Houston. – About to cut my wrist so my arm open. I’d be bleeding 808. Be bleeding Hawaii. You probably did a save. – Bleeding Mezcal or tequila.
(laughing) – Orange, tamarind, green
onion, cayanne pepper.

100 thoughts on “How the World’s Most Authentic Tex-Mex is Made — Cooking in America

  1. I love cooking with sous vide and was wondering what temp and time frame I should cook octopus at. would love to try it. by the why I thought why I thought you would appreciate my Lolo a Theo taught me how to cook filipino food before I could reach a counter

  2. I just ate and the meats and the veggies and the prawns in this video nearly gave me a foodgasm. Goddamn, that looks good. Humble, basic, authentic cooking made with the utmost skill and dedication.

    Can't beat that.

  3. A true American. I have massive respect for anyone who takes that much pride in their work/business. And this guy takes the cake!

  4. I love how Sheldon encourages the chefs to speak for themselves by asking the right questions that allows them to talk about their cooking and history well. It allows the viewers to get a exceedingly informative experience of the food, not to mention that he makes a connection with the chef which enables us to establish a confident understanding of the video. Great Hosting and Keep up the good work! !!!

  5. I've never seen such a blatant display of cultural appropriation in my life. Applying French techniques to Mexican food. Blasphemy!

  6. Mad respect to the host and chef. They both had good chemestry. Plus that tex mex could go head to head with cali mex.

  7. Food looks tasty but Ninfa's isn't the "originator" of the fajita. That's just over-rated hype that they fail to discourage. Grilling skirt steak and eating it in tortillas goes back hundred's of years in South Central Texas and Northern Mexico. BTW, Houston's supposed exciting and vibrant "multiculturalism" only goes back twenty years at most. The real reason immigrants have flocked there is because it is very easy and cheap to live in Houston. That is not to say that Mexican hasn't been a staple since the sixties in Houston but it was only one of five choices including BBQ, Cajun, Italian and American.

  8. moved to Michigan from Texas and it was a mistake, the food here sucks balls..can wait to get my ass back to houston

  9. Subscribed and clicked the Notif bell just 'coz of Sheldon Simeon!!! 😍 I love the way he handled the whole segment…he's a natural host who shows great passion for food, culture, & history behind the people & the flavors they offer. 😊👍🏼 Now, I'm off to watch all of Sheldon's vids. 😂 More power to you Sheldon!!! Love heaps from Sydney!!!! 😘❤️

  10. Sheldon is a great host. His warm smile and open personality make him relatable and totally likeable. Love this show.

  11. Being from Hawaii, I liked Sheldon right off the bat because the people of Hawaii can relate to him. He's gotten much better as a host without losing that sincerity and humility which makes him genuine. Braddah Sheldon you do us in the 808 proud.

  12. Texas was only part of Mexico for eight years. And before that the Spanish basically just had their flag on it. El Paso and Deep South Texas was inhabited so don't act like Texas has a long Mexican history it was Indian country

  13. Bucket list! Adding to my bucket list. Whoa! Hand rolled tortilla, steak, fajitas. My heart is crying. Beautiful food. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Fajitas appear to have made the quantum leap from campfire and backyard grill obscurity to commercial sales in 1969. Sonny Falcon, an Austin meat market manager, operated the first commercial fajita taco concession stand at a rural Dies Y Seis celebration in tiny Kyle in September of 1969. That same year, fajitas debuted on the menu at Otilia Garza's Round-Up Restaurant in the Rio Grande Valley community of Pharr, according to Texas Monthly contributing editor John Morthland in a 1993 magazine story.

    We pick up the fajita trail in Houston in 1973, when a Rio Grande Valley native named Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo opened a Tex-Mex restaurant on Navigation Boulevard called Ninfa's. She built a restaurant empire on a good bar business and the simple, tasty foods of her Valley heritage, including fajitas, sold as "tacos al carbon" and "tacos a la Ninfa." While Tex-Mex restaurateurs such as Otilia Garza and Ninfa Laurenzo were popularizing fajitas in Houston and the Valley during the 1970s, Sonny Falcon was introducing them to thousands of Anglos and Hispanics alike at his concession stands at rodeos, outdoor fairs, and festivals all over the state.

    https://www.austinchronicle.com/food/2005-03-04/261130/

  15. Very sad it wasnt a white guy and a mexican guy and their intro wasnt “im the tex he’s the mex”

  16. I'm from Houston Texas where is this place at I never knew about this place I'm in New York City right now I can't wait to come home to try this!!!!

  17. Lucas who? Sheldon is by far the best host of all the Eater series. He doesn't just interview the chefs /cooks or ask them mundane questions about how something is prepared. He goes past that and into the soul of the people preparing the food because that's where it all starts. Not the ingredients.

    All of his videos are heart warming stories of family. Because he connects with people so well, they open up and you can feel the emotions and pride. Braddah Sheldon no ka oi 🤙

  18. LOL…Very debatable about Ninfas inventing fajitas! Strips of steak with onion and peppers were ate on trail rides. Ninfas in Houston, The Hyatt in Austin, and a LOT of places in San Antonio were cooking fajitas in the 1970s.

  19. The most authentic tex-mex cooking in America?what a title,Tex-mex is a bastardized version of Mexican cuisine,also America is all the continent,but looks like in this restaurant they make everything from scratch not with canned ingredients,I have some terrible experiences,maybe that’s why I hate Tex-mex.

  20. All of that stuff looked REALLY good. I've always thought Tex-Mex was watered down Mexican for Gringos, but this guy is taking it waaaay beyond another level. I would love to eat there!

  21. I used to eat at the Ninfa's on Westheimer all the time with my Mom and Mama Ninfa would sometimes come in back in the 1990s. Ninfa's is a staple of Houston, I'm glad they kept the original location. The other day I was in the Galleria and they had a Ninfa's Express and I had the beef burrito and it was just as good as I remember, so the meat was so flavorful. I had no idea they invented the fajita until I saw this video. I need to go visit the OG location and take a stroll down Tasty Blvd.

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