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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.

The follow-your-gut mentality of the entrepreneur has the potential to take you anywhere you want to go or run you right out of business.”

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If you would create something,
 you must be something.”

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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”

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Are you willing to help other people succeed even when it’s not a requirement of your job to be of assistance?”

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Success is about finding a livelihood that brings joy, self-sufficiency, and a sense of contributing.”

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Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.”

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We are all of us born with a letter inside us, and that only if we are true to ourselves, may we be allowed to read it before we die.”

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A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.”

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The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.”

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What is the point of having free will if one cannot occasionally spit in the eye of destiny?”

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In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

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We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

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With ordinary talents and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.”

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When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

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The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”

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Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”

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Don’t follow, lead. Don’t copy, create. Don’t start, finish. Don’t sit still, move. Don’t fit in, stand out. Don’t sit quietly, speak up. (Not all the time, sure, but more often.)”

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‎No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”

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The only dream worth having is to live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead.”

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I’m not afraid of storms,
for I’m learning to sail my ship.”

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If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it.”

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Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which obstacles vanish.”

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History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”

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If you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.”

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You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it.”

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My job is my hobby. I come to work to play.”

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Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation that indicate opportunities for success.”

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Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”

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Everyone is a mirror image of yourself—your own thinking coming back at you.”

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A diamond is a lump of coal that stuck with it.”

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Persist and persevere, and you will find most things that are attainable, possible.”

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It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

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When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

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Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”

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Traveling is one way of lengthening life, at least in appearance.”

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By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

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The dove descending breaks the air / With flame of inkandescent terror.”

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There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

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Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”

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When I was younger I thought success was being a star, driving nice cars, having groupies. But today I think the most important thing is to live your life with integrity.

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We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”

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Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.”

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I don’t do very well without fear. There needs to be a part of me saying, ‘That’s going to fail,’ so I can prove myself wrong.”

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At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

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To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”

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I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.”

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We never know how high we are
 till we are called to rise;
 And then, if we are true to plan,
 Our statures touch the skies.”

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Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves. We must learn to respect them. We must learn to listen.”

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Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.”

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Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make Me Feel Important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

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