Animalón by Tijuana Chef Javier Plascencia and photographer Jaime Fritsch was a culinary experience that I will be remembering for a long time. It took place on June 21st, 2017 at Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan, San Diego.
Not only did this Animalón event celebrate the beginning of Summer, but it was also to celebrate the launch of the book, The Soul of Baja.
If you love food; these are the experiences that you live for. The incredible smells and sights and sounds were everywhere.
It wasn’t just the food that made it so special; it wasn’t just the delicious beer from Fall Brewing or the wine from Baja, or watching the chefs, or the smells of smoke from the fires cooking all around us, or talking to the people who appreciated what was happening as much as I did. While any of these would have made my day ordinarily, it was all of it together that made such impact.
Before I showed up, I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how many people would be there. I almost imagined chef Javier cooking over a stove by himself for just a handful of people. All I knew is that it would be incredible. Turns out that I didn’t know how incredible it would be and I was so off on the scale I had imagined. There would be over 300 guests, countless team members and dishes that just kept coming.
I arrived 3 hours before guests were scheduled to start taking photos of the prep work and take in as much of the experience as possible. I really wasn’t sure how much more there was to cook because I wasn’t aware of the extent of the menu.
Animalón gave the ‘open kitchen’ concept has a whole new meaning. It was more like an immersed kitchen. You were completely surrounded by it on all sides. Walking next to fire that you can feel across your arm. Dodging smoke as it billows off of the ___. You leave smelling like smoke. Like you just spent the night around a campfire.
They had been prepping for days on very little sleep, and that doesn’t count the weeks of planning. Coolers were stacked with pre-prepped ingredients in tiny containers.
Everyone was so calm, knowing exactly what to do and going about their tasks. The only sweat I saw was from the heat of the fire. Javier was jumping from cooking station to cooking station to make sure everything was right. Javier was everywhere. His team was everywhere. The food was only one part of the experience. Watching his team and all the people help was as inspiring as the food.
Being able to watch it come together was truly amazing.
There were cooking methods and tools that I hadn’t seen before.
the most noticeable at first were the chickens slowly cooking over a hanging contraption.
Bread & Salt is a beautiful old building located in Barrio Logan, just south of downtown San Diego. It is an old bread factory since converted into an experimental center for the arts. Art is displayed everywhere from many artists in the community.
Fire was everywhere. Almost every dish touched fire in some way.
My first bite was of the Carnitas that had been roasting over the fire all day. There were some scraps left on the cutting board for us after it had been cut up.
The first dish was the Aguachile. This is my kind of dish. A hint of heat, but it was so balanced with the fresh fish, pickled onions, sea beans and colorful garnish.
Inspired is how I feel. Inspired to keep trying new dishes, inspired to try new cooking techniques, and mostly, inspired to keep exploring cultures that I am not very familiar with.
I really wish I had gotten more involved earlier, but there will be more events.
Find out more about upcoming Animalon events at https://www.animalonbaja.com