El Palacio’s Chef Anthony Serrano Continues to Rock the World’s Culinary Stage
Sure, he’s one of the jolliest and happiest culinary souls in Arizona. Of course, he creates magic at his restaurant, El Palacio Mexican Restaurant & Cantina and at his own Desert Rose Catering Company. But to know Chef Anthony Serrano is to simply fall in love with everything he does, because he’s one of the most caring and conscientious people working in the biz today. Early last month, Serrano grabbed the stage at the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama where he took top honors in the “Recipe” category.
“It was my first time in Alabama and it was actually really, really nice there,” says Serrano. “Everyone in the town was really welcoming, and that was really nice. We’d go to a local restaurant, and everyone knew what was happening with the event because it drew so many people to the area.”
Serrano competed in the Recipe Category against 45 teams and also competed in the Chef’s Challenge. For the recipe category, the theme was “Breakfast.” “We had to do an eggs Benedict for one of our dishes in the opening round. The second round we had to do our signature breakfast,” explains Serrano. “I’m not really a breakfast and I wanted to do something different than Mexican food. I wanted to show that it’s not all that I can do. I did a pumpkin spice latte French toast, a purple potato hash on top, agave braised pork belly, a bacon and butter poached egg on top and then I did a Fireball whiskey and maple cream butter sauce on top. Then, I served it with a little cocktail on the side made with Rumchata and Fireball whiskey and a bit of heavy cream.” That is one incredible breakfast and the judges thought so, too. (Clearly, all of us culinary common folk need to step up our breakfast game!)
This is Chef Serrano’s third year competing at the World Food Championships. The staff at El Palacio assisted Serrano in getting his recipes dialed in just right before he traveled out to prepare his dishes on site.There is also a time limit that chefs have to prepare dishes during the World Food Championships. “That is what adds so much pressure to it,” says Serrano. “For the first round you have two hours total, but you have to turn in your first dish at the end of the first hour, and your second dish at the end has to be end of the second hour. There’s no leeway for whatever reason - If your oven doesn’t work, if you tripped and fell… It’s a part of how everybody stays accountable and honest because it’s blind judging. There are no exceptions for anyone.”
Serrano likes competing in the recipe category because every year the theme is different. “It’s sort of like a wild card category,” notes Serrano. For his efforts, Serrano took first place in the Recipe Category, plus a check for $10,000, and some cool culinary swag.
“There are nine categories total – including barbecue, burgers, steak, seafood, dessert… So, the first place in each of the nine categories all go on to compete against each other. A percentage of the score is based on taste, a percentage is execution, and then a percentage is appearance. Although the different style dishes compete against each other, each one is judged individually at the final table. They score it at the final table and there are five or six celebrity judges. They pick and choose the score on each one,” explains Anthony. At the end of the day, Serrano overall finished sixth out of 490 teams. “It was first place in our category and sixth place out of 490 teams. We’re still pretty happy with ourselves,” says Serrano.
Part of Serrano’s win was gaining professional representation by Swoon Talent. “They pitch us to the Food Network and to the nationally syndicated morning shows,” explains Serrano. “That should be pretty interesting. They have quite a few people on the Food Network that they represent already.” It would be incredible to see Chandler’s own Chef Serrano take the national TV stage with some frequency. His recipes, creativity and bubbly personality make him a natural.
Time for Christmas Tamales
Tamales are popular at this time of year and El Palacio’s will hook you up with your favorite Mexican holiday staple! “They can call ahead to the restaurant and it is $34 for a dozen tamales and it comes with a pint of salsa and chips, or just $25 for the dozen tamales,” finishes Serrano.
El Palacio is located at 2950 E. Germann Rd., Chandler. Visit www.epfamilyrestaurants.com or call (480) 802-5770.