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Chefs Kim Alvarez, Owner, Avenida Restaurant

COLUMN = FOOD

As a graduate of Syracuse University’s restaurant management program and the two-year chef program at the Culinary Institute of America, cooking has been my passion since I was 7.

I clearly remember the day my mom enrolled me in a cooking class at Bloomingdale’s in Jenkintown, PA. It was Thanksgiving time, and our first assignment was to make homemade stuffing. I loved tearing the bread and combining it with the wet ingredients using my fingers. It was the best stuffing I had ever tasted, and every Thanksgiving I continue to make it for my family.

That’s what cooking is all about: bringing joy to family and friends through combining the best ingredients with some skill and a little magic. Now that my husband, Chef Edgar Alvarez, and I have children, we teach them to prepare the recipes that our grandmothers created. Rarely does a week go by when Emma doesn’t whip up a giant bowl of guacamole, or Alejandro doesn’t ask for some of Mom-mom’s matzoh balls.

I feel lucky to share the art of cooking with my kids and with my customers, too.

In my 25 years as a chef, I have had the privilege of working in some of the best kitchens in America, including Brad Ogden’s One Market in San Francisco and the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, CA, as the second-in-command at The Striped Bass under head chef Alison Barshack, and as head chef of Beaujolais in Philadelphia.

I also worked as a chef at several gourmet markets in Philadelphia, including Gerard’s and Patina.

At those establishments I learned not only how to prepare four-star meals, but how to lead other chefs so they enjoy coming to work each day. I also came to master what it means to truly take care of your guests.

We bring that to Avenida, and look forward to building a reputation as the go-to spot for fabulous Latin American cuisine in a family-friendly environment. We’ll look forward to seeing you soon!

ABOUT CHEF EDGAR ALVAREZ

Etched in my memory of growing up in Guatemala is the scene of my grandmother, aunts, and mother preparing a meal at my grandmother’s ranch outside the city. It was an all-day affair, for we were a giant family. When breakfast ended, all the women in the family would go off to the market to buy the freshest produce, meat, and fish for lunch and dinner. They did not have much to spend, but la comida was always full of love and flavor.

My mother was a truly amazing chef, although she would never consider herself one. But she taught me everything I know. I watched closely the way she would add some of this and not too much of that. She gave me a love for good, healthy, hearty food—just like the kind I prepare today.

When I came to this country, I worked as a sous chef at some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, including the original Dock Street, the four-star restaurant The Striped Bass, and the gourmet Chinese restaurant, Susanna Foo. I had the opportunity to work under the excellent chefs who cooked there, as well as Phillippe Chin and Keong Bahn, when I worked at Phillippe.

After fine-tuning my skills, I was ready to go off on my own in 1999 and became the head chef at The Black Sheep near Rittenhouse Square. Although Irish pub cuisine was new to me, I decided to combine what I knew well with traditional pub-grub recipes. We served elegant comfort food that received rave reviews, and later several awards, from Philadelphia magazine’s “Best Of” series, among others.

What I love about being a chef is that there is always something new and different to learn. And after I married my wife, Chef Kim Katz Alvarez, and we had our beautiful children, Emma and Alejandro, we moved to the suburbs and I was eager to see what the Main Line had to offer. I was not disappointed.

In 2004, we bought the Delaware Market House in Gladwyne, a 100-year-old establishment with a wonderful history that Kim and I turned into one of the most unique gourmet markets and catering companies in the region, as CNN Money noted. We closed the Market in March and soon after began working on opening our new restaurant, Avenida.

The goal for me as head chef at this new Latin American restaurant is to bring my childhood memories to life for my kids and my customers. I hope that everyone I cook for thoroughly enjoys their food, and leaves the table with a renewed zest for all that life has to offer.

For more information about Avenida, visit www.avenidarestaurant.com. And to make a reservation to sample the fine Latin American dishes that are getting rave reviews, call Kim Katz Alvarez at 267.385.6857.

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