The Culinary Performances Series Profiles – Elvia and Ramon Saldivar
Elvia owes her truly unique culinary instincts to Grandmother Antonia Cortez. One of those classic “old school” Mexican women who cooked with mesquite and never used an electrical appliance in her life, let alone a powered blender. Everything grandma Antonia touched was by hand and smashed in the Metate, the traditional central American flat, or slightly hollowed, oblong stone used to grind everything from grains to cocoa.
Young Elvia drifted into the kitchen at the early age of 4, where she learned how to make tortillas at about the time most children master finger painting. She quickly grasped everything from tortillas and queso fresco to lamb birria, the characteristic spicy stew, traditionally made from goat meat, lamb or mutton marinated in adobo spices.
Years later, while taking her Sunday stroll through the town square (the Plaza of Peñasco) she caught the eye of a young 17 year old Ramon who, as luck would have it, had just arrived in town to work on his father Salvador’s newly purchased peach farm. Ramon’s dad, a grower who owned tomato, bean, corn, pumpkin, apricot, apple, avocado, plum and walnut farms saw an opportunity in Peñasco which was all of 40 minutes from Jerez where Ramon was born and grew up.
Soon, peaches were not the only thing blossoming, and less than three years later 18 year-old Elvia married 20 year-old Ramon and neither ever looked back. Even in 1998, young Ramon had big dreams which he knew could old be fully realized in America, so the newlyweds moved to Agoura Hills California to make a new and better life for themselves.
Ramon began his career in the restaurant business, starting literally from the ground up as a bus boy, working for internationally renowned Chef Saverio Posarelli at the iconic Padri Restaurant and Martini Bar in Agoura.
A quick study, Ramon soon learned English and started to climb the ladder working next as a server, then assistant Manager, then as the general manager, eventually becoming a partner at the very restaurant he started out at as a bus boy in 1998.
One evening in 2013, in a casual dinner conversation with his mentor and now partner Saverio, he waxed nostalgic about growing up on a farm around fresh produce and fruits in Zacatecas Mexico, and shared
for the first time ever his dream of introducing the US market to authentic farm to table Mexican.
As the Italian chef recalls it, “He wanted to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to Agoura Hills with a “new wave” modern twist.” This appealed to the well seasoned and successful Italian restaurateur and Plata Taqueria & Cantina was born in Agoura Hills’ Whizin Market Square.
After interviewing 4 different chefs, but not finding anyone that truly got Ramon’s vision… he turned to the one person who not only “GOT IT” but was right in front of him all along. Elvia and, his wife of 15 years who mastered tortilla making at the age of 4. It was INSTANTLY sizzling MAGIC.
Today, three years later, pioneering Chefs Ramon and Elvia Saldivar have reimagined, re-conceived, even reinvented a palette of all natural and healthy flavors they call “New Wave Mexican” that EXPLODE in your mouth without the typical heaviness associated with “South of the Border” fare. It’s safe to say there cooking is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.
Ramon dreams big… and he is in the midst of planning the roll out of the Plata Taqueria & Cantina concept to multiple locations. It’s a long way from Jerez, Zacatecas Mexico, but the real, honest and authentic fresh flavors are still the same.