The Migrant Chef
By Laura Tillman
2023 • W. W. Norton & Company
A chef’s gripping quest to reconcile his childhood experiences as a migrant farmworker with the rarefied world of fine dining.
Born in rural Mexico, Eduardo “Lalo” García Guzmán and his family left for the United States when he was a child, picking fruits and vegetables on the migrant route from Florida to Michigan. He worked in Atlanta restaurants as a teenager before being convicted of a robbery, incarcerated, and eventually deported. Lalo landed in Mexico City as a new generation of chefs was questioning the hierarchies that had historically privileged European cuisine in elite spaces. At his acclaimed restaurant, Máximo Bistrot, he began to craft food that narrated his memories and hopes.
Mexico City–based journalist Laura Tillman spent five years immersively reporting on Lalo’s story: from Máximo’s kitchen to the onion fields of Vidalia, Georgia, to Dubai’s first high-end Mexican restaurant, to Lalo’s hometown of San José de las Pilas. What emerges is a moving portrait of Lalo’s struggle to find authenticity in an industry built on the very inequalities that drove his family to leave their home, and of the artistic process as Lalo calls on the experiences of his life to create transcendent cuisine. The Migrant Chef offers an unforgettable window into a family’s border-eclipsing dreams, Mexico’s culinary heritage, and the making of a chef.
Tags: Books, food writing, mexican, was-preorder