Aaron Sanchez celebrates heritage while looking forward on El Toque de Aaron, interview

El Toque de Aaron show, staring Aaron Sanchez, Cris Mercado, Ángel Riveros photo provided by Discovery/Warner bros
El Toque de Aaron show, staring Aaron Sanchez, Cris Mercado, Ángel Riveros photo provided by Discovery/Warner bros /

Having grown up in the restaurant world, Chef Aaron Sanchez has seen vast changes over the years. From the rise of the celebrity chef to the success of his own Johnny Sanchez in New Orleans, much has changed since his first introduction to the professional food through his mother’s restaurant. While he has benefited from culinary mentors like Jonathan Waxman, Chef Aaron understands that the culture, heritage, and appreciating a personal role in that space influences not only the food on the table but the experience when a guest dines at a restaurant. On his new food television show, El Toque de Aaron, these iconic restaurants take a step forward but never forget the foundation that built their success.

Coming to Discovery Familia and Hogar de HGTV, El Toque de Aaron brings together Chef Aaron Sanchez, Cris Mercado, and Angel Riveros. During each episode, the trio visits some iconic Hispanic restaurants and helps them revitalize their establishment. While there are various restaurant makeover shows, this show is less about mandating a change and more about giving the owners, staff, and community the tools to move forward. The brash, authoritative comments are replaced by listening and advising in a respectful way.

Recently, Aaron Sanchez spoke to FoodSided about El Toque de Aaron and why this show’s approach is vital for these types of establishments. While everyone involved wants these respected restaurants to thrive, no one wants to offend the owners and staff during the process.

El Toque de Aaron
El Toque de Aaron show, staring Aaron Sanchez, Cris Mercado, Ángel Riveros photo provided by Discovery/Warner bros /

Chef Aaron commented, “Latinos have a lot of pride and recognition of our heritage, families and legacies. We want to be very mindful when coming into these environments. For example, that piece of art on the wall might have been drawn by a family member. The recipes might be part of the family. We cannot be insensitive.”

As he continued to explain, “we need to tread these waters from a cultural point of view. While being respectful, there is a conversation about what and how to update the restaurants. There are some places that are iconic and have been there forever. They just need a little bit of love, a little shine.”

While each experience is unique, Chef Aaron shared that many of these restaurants are more than just a business. It is a place where families have put their heart and soul into every aspect. In a way, there is a sense of community that surrounds all aspects of that restaurant.

Although these restaurants could benefit from a change, it is not just starting with a blank slate. Chef Aaron said, “we’re talking to multi-generational families that have been dedicated to this restaurant.” Although the younger generation might want to add technology and innovation, the older generation may not be as comfortable with those changes. This show helps to be the bridge to bring both sides together, move them forward and still honor the past.

From Chef Aaron training the culinary team to revitalizing the aesthetic of the restaurant, the four days seem to move quickly. Although there might be pressure, the final result is worth every minute.

One of the keys to giving these locations a little extra sparkle is finding that way to balance youthful exuberance without losing what made that restaurant have long-term success. Chef Aaron believes that the restaurants need that influence of creative young people to keep guests engaged and coming back for more. He believes that they succeeded creating a contemporary space while being respectful of the heritage at the same time.

El Toque de Aaron airs its first episode on April 17 at 10 p.m. on Discovery Familia and Hogar HGTV. The six-episode series is presented in Spanish. Both Chef Aaron’s and the channels will be sharing information on the restaurants featured on the show.

For some people, enjoying a meal at a favorite restaurant is like being welcomed into someone’s home. Even if there is a new piece of art on the wall or the signature dish has a slightly different presentation, it does not change sentiments shared while enjoying that meal. A great restaurant is almost like a memorable recipe. It requires all the ingredients to come together to linger in the mind long after the plate is off the table.