• Columnists

Chef Edgar Alvarez, Avenida Restaurant

COLUMN = FOOD

I grew up in Guatemala, and the thing that is etched in my memory 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 and 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.

I remember my mother plucking fresh chickens in the yard. She would cut up tons of vegetables and then toss everything in a giant pot. It would simmer just long enough to bring out the most mouthwatering flavors.

She was truly an 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 mix what I knew well with traditional pub-grub recipes. On opening 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.

Women once had the goal of being Superwoman; I think most of us now simply strive to have a super day.”

– Author, Activist Lee Woodruff

Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.”

– Carlos Castaneda

Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.”

– Edgar W. Howe

Look at everything as though you were
seeing it either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

– Betty Smith

By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

– Sri Aurobindo

There are children playing in the street who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.”

– J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

– William Shakespeare

My goal was to tell the life side of the story. We have become a nation of voyeurs that expect sensationalism, and that offends me.”

– Kathleen Jo Ryan

Anything not worth doing well is not worth doing.”

– Warren Buffett

This is the age when magical technologies make more and more radically fun ideas plausible, even easy. You’re only limited by your creativity.”

– Martha Beck

We are perfectionists. We are hungry to work all the time. We are entertained by every aspect of business and we never want to stop working.”

– Suzy Welch

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

– Joseph Campbell

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

– Uli Becker, president, Reebok International

The good ideas are all hammered out in agony by individuals, not spewed out by groups.”

– Charles Brower, Advertising Hall of Fame

It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.”

– Aristotle

Passion makes perfect.”

– Eugene Biro

The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.”

– Andrew Carnegie

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…”

– John Lennon

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.

No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.”

– Martha Beck, from "Leaving the Saints"

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

– Anais Nin

The world I believed in, back in my most innocent, uninformed, childish mind—is real.”

– Martha Beck

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.”

– Thomas Dunn

Some things are destined to be—it just takes us a couple of tries
to get there.”

– J.R. Ward, Lover Mine

The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. The greatest failure is to not try.”

– Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields Cookies

The goal of Life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.”

– Joseph Cambell

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

– General Omar Bradley

You must learn to be still in the midst of activity 
and to be vibrantly alive in repose.”

– Indira Ghandi

Your own words are the bricks and mortar
of the dreams you want to realize.
 The words you choose and their use establish the life you experience.”

– Sonia Croquette

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.)”

– Seth Godin

The only way to compel men to speak good of us is to do it.”

– Voltaire

It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.”

– Alfred Adler

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.”

– Ray Bradbury

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

– Basil King

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

– Thomas Edison

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.”

– JFK

If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”

– Anna Quindlen

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

– E.B. White

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

– Brian Tracy

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

– Mark Twain

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

– Groucho Marx

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. 
Now put foundations under them.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.”

– Steve Jobs

Do not say, ‘why were the former days better than these,’ for it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

– Ecclesiastes, 7:10

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

– Benjamin Franklin

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

– Charles Dickens

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

– Albert Einstein