Chef Silvana Esparza is bringing a taste of Barrio Cafe to New York

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Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza is one of the most influential chefs in Phoenix when it comes to Mexican food. She opened Barrio Cafe on 16th Street in 2002, has since become an icon of the local food scene, introducing the Valley to elevated, regional Mexican cuisines. She has been a James Beard Best Chef Southwest semifinalist seven times and won the MLK Jr. service award in January 2022. This year, she was named as a semifinalist for the national Outstanding Chef award by the James Beard foundation.

Soon, diners in New York City will be able to try the cochinita pibil and guacamole with pomegranate seeds and chips that Esparza is famous for, thanks to her participation in a program called Wonder.

Wonder offers a new paradigm in high-end food delivery

Led by billionaire and former CEO of Walmart US e-commerce, Marc Lore, Wonder started as a mobile kitchen in 2019 that would park in front of a customer's home, cook and deliver the food fresh.

Wonder is not a ghost kitchen. Unlike ghost kitchens, Wonder will have an dine-in option and is vertically integrated, which means it owns all parts of its business, from the kitchen to delivery. This ensures they can control the quality of what gets delivered, and how long it takes.

They also include their participating chefs as shareholders in the company.

"We are trying to bring the best of the best," said Wonder's spokesperson. "That meant the best Mexican food with Esparza."

Other chefs on the roster include Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Mark Murphy. Chef and humanitarian Jose Andres also plans to join.

"We were the first ones to sign up with Wonder," said Esparza who had never offered to-go food because she felt that delivery time would affect the quality of the food arriving at the diner's house. When she heard about cutting out the third party delivery system, "I said where do I sign up?"

Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe is pictured in front Barrio Cafe in Phoenix on Oct. 3, 2020.
Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe is pictured in front Barrio Cafe in Phoenix on Oct. 3, 2020.

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What is on the Barrio Cafe Wonder menu

The model changed recently and starting Thursday, Feb. 16, Wonder will launch fixed locations around New York that will serve a small radius of six to eight block, with their own couriers. In this way, each location can serve more menus and reach more households. The kitchen will time the food preparation to the arrival of the couriers.

While the first location on the Upper West Side serves menus from eight chefs, including Esparza, the company plans to take the program nationwide with 30 chefs in the future.

Wonder representatives did not have an exact date for an Arizona rollout.

Esparza trained chefs to cook a selection of dishes from the Barrio Cafe menu for Wonder customers in New York. The initial menu includes her famous chips and guacamole, tacos barbacoa, enchiladas suizas, tacos camaron Baja and churros.

Even though the new kitchen is on the other side of the country, Esparza plans to remain very hands on.

"It's a continual partnership and I have to watch my brand," Esparza said about Wonder. "If it's not up to my level, I'll go down on my sword. I'll kill it."

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Chef Silvana Esparza is bringing a taste of Barrio Cafe to New York