Before opening her restaurant, Don Goyo, renowned chef Lula Martín del Campo thought people who lived in snowy places like Park City were un poquito loco. But after experiencing winter in Park City and the beauty of a snow-covered Main Street, she gets it.
“Now I am an addict to the snow,” she laughs.
Her restaurant, Don Goyo, is named for Popocatépetl, an active stratovolcano in Central Mexico. According to legend, Don Goyo is the elderly, benevolent spirit of Popocatépetl who comes down from the caldera to warn townsfolk in the event of an eruption.
“My ancestors were Aztec people, and Aztec culture looked up to the volcano Don Goyo,” Lula says.
Lula owns and operates two restaurants in her hometown of Mexico City, as well as her most recent venture in Park City. All three specialize in authentic Mexican cuisine. Not the yellow-cheese-heavy Tex-Mex that many Americans are used to.
“I have always had this curiosity of working in the United States,” she explains. “We are neighbors. My passion is to promote Mexican culture in the most authentic way it can be. So being able to show our culture to the American market is a gift for me.”
Mexican cuisine is based on three main ingredients: corn, chile and beans. Her goal in both her home country and in the U.S. is to show the sophistication and range of Mexican cuisine. Mexico’s northern to southern regions have vast gastronomic differences, just like any other country.
“Tex-Mex is like a big monster for us Mexicans to conquer because it has such a strong identity in the States. It’s a big challenge to show the world that Mexican food is not Tex-Mex,” Lula says.
Her motto, en la vida y en la cocina, menos es más leads her every move. In life and the kitchen, less is more.
“I think that simplicity has great power. If you make things simple, everything flows much better. That’s in life. But in the kitchen, in cuisine, when you value the ingredients as they are in their original state, and you put them in the dish or the plate, the flavors will be cleaner and easier to understand and enjoy.”
The three dishes from Don Goyo that highlight her Aztec and Mexican heritage are her mother’s meatballs (prepared over two days), the salmon con mole and the Don Goyo filet with ashes.
“We pretend they are the ashes from the volcano,” she notes.
And while tacos and fajitas are part of Mexican cuisine, Lula wants to expose American diners to the simpler, more elegant side of her country’s food culture.
“There’s much more sophistication and that’s what we want to show in Don Goyo. We are more sophisticated than tequila, mariachi, salsa and chimichangas. We are more based on corn, beans and chile. We are not fast food or low-cost food.”
Lula is very mindful and intentional about the ingredients she uses in her dishes. In Mexico, she seeks out farmers of grains and seeds that are at risk of extinction. Her hope is that by extending the lives of these grains and seeds, she is also extending the world’s connection to Mexican heritage.
And while ingredients are a top priority for Lula, her true passion lies in sharing her culture with others. Her mother was a fantastic cook and shared that with Lula. Now, Lula wants to share that with us.