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First Mexican Taco Stand to Win Michelin Star

Newly minted Michelin-starred chef Arturo Rivera Martínez stood over an insanely hot grill at the first Mexican taco stand ever to get a coveted star from the French dining guide, and did exactly the same thing he’s been doing for 20 years: searing meat.


Chef Arturo Rivera Martínez at his taco stand
Chef Arturo Rivera Martínez

When Michelin representatives came by on Wednesday to present him with one of the company’s heavy, full-sleeved, pristine white chef’s jackets, he didn’t put it on: In his tiny, 10-foot by 10-foot (3m x 3m) taco stand, the heat makes the meat. And the heat is intense.


At Mexico City’s Tacos El Califa de León, in the scruffy-bohemian San Rafael neighborhood, there are only four things on the menu, all tacos, and all of which came from a cow’s rib, loin or fore shank.


“The secret is the simplicity of our taco. It has only a tortilla, red or green sauce, and that’s it. That, and the quality of the meat,” said Rivera Martínez. He’s also probably the only Michelin-starred chef who, when asked what beverage should accompany his food, answers “I like a Coke.”


It's actually more complicated than that. El Califa de León is the only taco stand among the 16 Mexican restaurants given one star, as well as two eateries that got two stars. Almost all the rest are pretty darn posh eateries (hint: a lot of expensive seafood served in pretty shells on bespoke plates).

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