Aarón Sanchez believes El Toque de Aarón Season 2 affirms restaurants’ hard work, interview

Aarón Sanchez in El Toque de Aarón Season 2
Aarón Sanchez in El Toque de Aarón Season 2 / Discovery Familia

While many food television fans have watched Aarón Sanchez over the years, the celebrated chef, businessman, and philanthropist understands that his position allows him to be a voice, mentor, and leader in the culinary community. On El Toque de Aarón Season 2, the new group of Los Angeles based Latino restaurants bring their passion, culture, and heritage while looking to foster future success for their businesses.

Part of the Discovery Familia and Hogar de HGTV programming, El Toque de Aarón brings together Aarón Sanchez with designer Cris Mercado and project manager Ángel Riveros to revitalize a handful of Latino restaurants. To be clear, and Chef Aarón emphasizes, these restaurants are not failing. This program is designed to celebrate the pioneers, trailblazers, and hard workers who have created thriving restaurants and is intended to create a viable, successful path for many more years of success. It is mean to be a celebration, without negativity.

After a successful first season, FoodSided had the pleasure of speaking with Aarón Sanchez ahead of the El Toque de Aarón Season 2 premiere. When asked what this series means to him, Chef Aarón said, “it is an affirmation of how I grew up, the way I was trained. Drawing from my upbringing, my experience, and what inevitably became my career path, I took all those emotions, knowledge and training to these businesses. My goal is to help them succeed and I want to impart that experience to them.”

While there are moments where the design of the restaurant changes or a menu concept evolves, the reality is that the heart and the soul of the restaurant and the owners shine through the real storytelling. There is no gotcha moment or negative intention.

As Chef Aarón explained, “we chose these restaurants because they are distinct. They have beautiful stories and are supported by strong individuals. We wanted to highlight them and make sure that they have that longevity.”

Telling the stories is vital to El Toque de Aarón. It is important to understand that Latino food and those restaurants are as diverse as the countries represented. From the 32 states of Mexico to the nuanced El Salvadorian flavors, a generalized label of Latino food does not do the genre justice. Appreciating the subtleties and differences is vital to ensuring each restaurant’s success today, tomorrow, and into the future.

Similar to some chefs choosing to educate diners on the complexities of African diaspora, Latino diaspora deserves its explanation as well. Chef Aarón believes that Season 2 of El Toque de Aarón offers that explanation in a palatable way not only to inform but to make people hungry to learn more.

In a way, that approach to making the information and changes easy to digest is a concept that applies to each episode, including how changes happen within the restaurant. Chef Aarón explained that some of the restaurants might have menus that are traditional or the presentation could use some revitalization. His goal is to find ways to honor the traditions but modernize in a way that the look and feel is not cliché. As chef mentioned, Mexican restaurants do not have use to chile peppers for its only décor accents. Creativity and forward thinking are vital concepts to balancing an elevated dining experience with a connection to cultural heritage.

In El Toque de Aarón Season 2, the next generation helps to infuse excitement into the restaurants. As Chef explained, “we found that these restaurants are being handed down to the younger generation. By using their bandwidth, that old school restaurant becomes cool again.”

Whether it is a reconnection with culture and heritage or finding a way to reposition the idea to a new demographic, nothing is taking away from the original concept. It is just finding a better way to connect with a broader audience.

Aaron Sanchez for El Toque de Aaron
Aaron Sanchez for El Toque de Aaron / El Toque de Aaron

Chef Aarón is proud of this show because it is an opportunity to be storytellers. Not only does each episode highlight a restaurant in the community, but it is a celebration of the people and families who have made it a success. Those recipes served with love are a celebration of the blood, sweat and tears of the hardworking generations who built that successful foundation. The future is nothing without the stories of the those who paved the way.

As viewers watch Season 2, Chef Aarón hopes that everyone will be as moved by the stories as he was. Specifically, this season's focus on women, the topic is near and dear to chef’s heart because of his mother’s influence on his own culinary career. He believes that highlighting the female power is vital to many of these stories.

Given that Chef Aarón continues to help the next generation through his foundation and scholarship program, he appreciates that the evolution in the culinary industry is both supportive yet has a firm hand. When people have the desire to step into that hospitality role, they need to appreciate the responsibility given to them. Finding that balance is key to the next generation being successful.

While El Toque de Aarón might be in broadcast in Spanish, non-Spanish speakers should take the opportunity to watch Season 2. The words might sound unfamiliar, but the stories will tug at the heart and inspired people to better appreciate not only the local restaurant but also the culture that associated with it.

Will there be an El Toque de Aarón Season 3? With so many other cities that have stories to tell, this series could go on for many seasons to come.

El Toque de Aarón airs on  Discovery Familia and Hogar de HGTV. In addition, Chef Aarón Sanchez can be seen on MasterChef Junior and MasterChef on FOX. He has his restaurant Johnnie Sanchez in New Orleans and has the Aarón Sánchez Impact Fund, which uses food to uplift Latino youth.