Food, Art, Flavour – Cristina Martinez

Cristina Martinez is a Mexican chef and immigration activist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Martinez is a native of Capulhuac, Mexico. She found a job in Philadelphia as a pastry chef in an Italian restaurant, where she met and married Benjamin Miller, a U.S. citizen.

As demand grew for Martinez’s home-made barbacoa, she and Miller began selling tacos from a pushcart on weekends. In 2015, they opened a permanent restaurant, South Philly Barbacoa. In 2016, Bon Appétit magazine named it one of the top ten best new restaurants in America.

Her mouth-watering, slow-cooked lamb “barbacoa” has catapulted Cristina Martinez into culinary elite status.

Martínez has achieved national fame for her Mexican-style barbecue restaurant she in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania called South Philly Barbacoa.

In the ten years since she arrived from Mexico — she’s from Capulhuac — Martínez has been featured in the fifth season of the award-winning documentary series “Chef’s Table” on Netflix and was a 2019 finalist for the James Beard Award, the food world’s most prestigious American prize. Martinez was also nominated for the Basque Culinary World Prize in 2019.

In 2016, Bon Appetit magazine ranked her restaurant number 6 on a list of 10 best new restaurants.

South Philly Barbacoa serves barbecued lamb, pancitas, and consome on weekends and Mondays. The tortillas are made with corn from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

But aside from cooking succulent dishes, Martinez and her husband Ben Miller host food events with other chefs and organizations to advocate for restaurant workers and trying to find ways to connect them to legal experts or other resources.

“What motivates me is to leave a legacy. We need to learn to educate people and set an example,” Martínez said.

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