This Hispanic Heritage Month, we decided to ask cooks who inspire us which is their ingrediente secreto (secret ingredient). How a traditional dish can take us to a place, make us feel nostalgic, happy, or daring, and, at the same time, hold the history and the memory of the chef itself.
Alfredo Vivar Chávez arrived in the United States when he was only 26 years old. He didn’t know then that the path that he had chosen would lead him to team up with his wife, Sandra, and build a foodie community under the name “El Sazón de Freddy”.
Born in Guadalajara (Mexico), but raised in El Salto, Jalisco, Alfredo lived his childhood and teenage years surrounded by delicious food and love until his mom died when he was only 15 years old. As a result, homemade food became something rare in his life, and street food turned into a viable and almost routine option.
But, missing a loved one and trying to remember them and how they made us feel can invite us to try things to make us feel closer to them. In Alfredo’s case, it was cooking.
Alfredo shares, “I have so many memories that I hold close to my heart. The memory that stands out the most has to be when my mom and aunts would get together in the kitchen and prepare Christmas dinner for the entire family. I have fond memories of when they would make pozole and tamales, but seeing them make buñuelos was my favorite. That image is always present in my mind. They would start really early prepping the masa (dough) and they would make the buñuelos. They were extended on the table to be left to air out. In the night, they would fry them. Those images of my mom cooking with my aunts will live forever in my mind and heart.”
When Alfredo moved to the US, he realized he was not only missing his mother and her recipes but also his hometown food, like Tortas Ahogadas, and Carnes en su Jugo. So, moved by emotion and passion for the kitchen and the flavors present there, he started to cook when friends and family came to visit.
This experience leads to a typical question when there’s an ingrediente secreto that everyone enjoys but can’t put their finger on. “What did you put in the food?”.
What’s Behind “El Sazón de Freddy”? Memory, Family, and Tradition
Sandra, Alfredo’s wife, might have not only wanted to share his recipes and happy moments with friends and family but also with the world. She was persistent since for two years she insisted Alfredo open a YouTube Channel. Every time he would say no.
The pandemic arrived, and with it, the adventurous side of Alfredo awakened. “El Sazón de Freddy” was born during a critical year to make a husband and a wife happy, to introduce anyone from anywhere in the world to recipes that mean something and are not just flavors and colors on a plate, and to share the secret behind each taste from Mexico, Alfredo’s home.
“My purpose with these videos is to be able to reunite families at the table with a warm home-cooked meal. Food is a way to bring families closer together. By eating homemade food, families are able to share and create memories that will last them forever,” Alfredo states.
Memory and family are alive for this influencer who shares that there is indeed a secret that was passed down generations in his family.
“The buñuelos recipe has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. My mom learned from my grandmother and I learned from my aunts. I wasn’t able to learn from my mom because she passed away when I was 15. My dream is to be able to teach my children so that they can continue on with this tradition and not let it die.”
Latinxs In The US: Alfredo’s Perspective and Experience
When we talk about immigration, new opportunities, and growth many Latinxs are grateful for how the United States and its people have opened their arms to them. But, at the same time, they reckon there are A LOT of things yet to be done and improved.
Building a home in a country that you are willing to make your own, it’s not an easy chore to take on.
So, we took the opportunity to ask Alfredo Vivar what it is like and what it means for him to be a Latinx in the US.
“Being Latinx in the United States has great meaning to me. I feel the responsibility to do well in anything I do because I want to represent my country with dignity. I am proud and fortunate to have the opportunity to share my roots, my culture, and more than anything Mexican Gastronomy. The Latinx community is filled with resilience, resistance, and persistence. We, the Latinos live in the United States carrying a sack of dreams over our shoulders. Even when it’s heavy, we don’t give up. We are a community that represents hard work and hope.”
Is there anything the co-founder of “El Sazón de Freddy” thinks should be improved or put on the agenda regarding Latinxs in the US?
For him, the answer is YES.
“Respect should be put on the agenda regarding the Latinx in the United States. More opportunities so that we can get ahead and have a more promising future.”
El Ingrediente Secreto de Alfredo Vivar
For Alfredo Vivar, there is one ingrediente secreto that cannot be missed in his recipes. Are you ready to know the secret?
“I love spicy food! So chile (spiciness) is the secret ingredient that can’t be missed in my recipes. I can’t explain it, if a dish doesn’t have spice the dish doesn’t have flavor. The chile gives my recipes an extra touch. I always try to find ways to implement chile into a new recipe. The spiciness takes the dish to another level of flavor.”
Yes. Chile is the ingrediente secreto behind Alfredo’s cuisine. But along with it, comes tradition and the memory of a loving mother who made buñuelos, a southern land that refuges him with its flavors and street food, and a community in a country that welcomes him and gives him the chance to do along with his wife what he loves the most: share Mexican food to the world.