hat do tacos, tequila, and time travel have in common? The Tres Carnales, that’s what. In Mexican slang, Tres Carnales translates to “three sons of different mothers.” And brothers they are. When you ask each of them to define their personal credo which dictates their every move, the answer is clear; gut instinct is king, life is too short to do otherwise, and tequila (with a shot of Mezcal for good measure) is a must as far as pre-weekend preparation rituals go.
Three homeboys, three personalities. Characterized by their distinctive flair for no fuss, locally sourced, intelligent fare, El Machín (Dani), El Surfo (Chris), and El Chef (Edgar) aren’t messing around. Although their refreshing and inventive take on Mexican cuisine has been bending minds since the inception of Tres Carnales Taqueria in 2011 – which incidentally made notable mention in Maclean’s Top 50 and had an appearance on John Catucci’s popular show You Gotta Eat Here!, followed by Rostizado in 2014 – also featured in several publications as well as securing television slots on programs such as CTV Morning Live – they aren’t just interested in food for foods sake. There is a depth of cultural appreciation and strong ethos driving these guys to deliver and deliver again.
BANDWIDTH ERA caught up with Dani, Chris, and Edgar to discuss their inspirations beyond the sights and sounds of Mexico through an international lens and talk motivation, food heroes, and their all important weekend ramp up rituals.
BANDWIDTH ERA: Do you have a credo, a statement you live by (what is it)?
DANI: Always, always, always listen to your gut. Whenever I’ve gone against my intuition, it’s been a disaster. The power of the limbic brain!
EDGAR: Follow your instinct.
CHRIS: Life is too short to do things you don’t want to do!
BW: Any rituals to get ramped up for the weekends?
DB: I personally like to have all to-dos either done, organized for next week, or delegated to one of our managers. I like to get into the busy weekend days with one single thought in mind; being there for my guests and ensuring they leave happier than they arrived. That – and a shot of Mezcal [laughs]!
EG: Red Bull, Corona, and tequila!
CS: Tequila. Definitely tequila.
BW: What gets you going when the going gets tough?
DB: Our team.
EG: I say to myself, “Get it done! Nothing lasts forever.”
CS: The sheer desire to get through the challenge and come out on the other side victorious!
BW: Your approach appears to be inclusivity, rather than doing battle, with your competitors. Why do you believe this is important?
DB: An old mentor told me once, “Nadie sabe tanto como todos juntos,” which basically translates to, “No one knows as much as we all together.” It means that we can accomplish so much more if we work together. Cooperation and collaboration…we all win.
EG: I think through collaboration we can be in tune with what’s new and learn from our competitors and it’s fun to see other passionate people do their thing. I get very excited – almost star struck.
CS: We’re more about helping to create and establish a culinary community in Edmonton than pitting ourselves against our contemporaries. This has really helped to foster and grow Edmonton’s restaurant scene and we really like where it’s going.
BW: Those little mariachi skeletons on the back wall and the religious symbols playing a central theme in Tres Carnales décor…are they mere travel trinkets or do they have deeper meaning?
DB: First let me clear this up; they are not mariachi skeletons but rather a representation of Dead as another stage of life. They are often represented in a jovial laid-back way because Mexicans wanted to fear death less. This is all part of the Day of the Dead traditions that have been present in Mexico for hundreds of years…it’s a very special celebration of life and one of our favourites at Tres Carnales Taqueria. With regards to the religious symbols; we don’t display them as a representation of our belief but rather as part of the cultural heritage of Mexico, that just happens to be Catholic in almost its entirety, and very devoted.
EG: To me it’s a symbol of our partnership. We did a lot of eating and cooking in Mexico. Those calaveras are a reminder of the fun, sometimes scary (!!) times we had in Puerto Vallarta.
CS: Most of it is out of a reverence and respect for Mexican culture and life. The skeletons are related to Day of the Dead celebrations; a festival that remembers loved ones who lived before us. It’s always important to remember where one comes from.
BW: Tell me why Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos are more than just block busting reasons to party…
DB: Cinco de Mayo is definitely not celebrated with as much enthusiasm in Mexico as it is in the United States, Canada, or any other country. It was an important battle that the Mexicans won against the French. It was of great meaning because 5,000 untrained, under armed [mostly farmers from Mexico] stood up and won against 10,000 French soldiers (who just happened to be the best army of the time). However, many people believe this date to be Independence Day, which is actually the night of the 15th to the 16th of September (and that date is celebrated big-time in Mexico).
I think Cinco de Mayo became this big thing outside of Mexico as a calculated marketing move…a date to give the large Mexican population living in the USA a chance to celebrate their culture; much like St. Patrick’s day for the Irish. Both seem a great excuse to party hard! We at the Taqueria acknowledge it more because 90% of our guests would otherwise ask the same question, “Why are you not doing anything for Cinco?”
Regarding “dia de los Muertos” we don’t take it as a party but more as a celebration of our loved ones that have left this plane. You honour their lives by remembering the best attributes of their persona and you share stories, the food and beverages they enjoyed. It is therefore a celebration of life rather than of death.
EG: To me it’s a celebration of the Mexican heritage, the vibrant culture with food, music, and the vibe. At Tres Carnales we also get to cook dishes we don’t normally get to share with our customers on a regular basis.
CS: Further to my previous answer, they are reasons to celebrate the richness of Mexican heritage. We’ve all been deeply moved and forever altered by the beauty and originality of Mexican culture and tradition.
BW: What is the difference between keeping current and remaining relevant?
DB: My take is that remaining current about concepts, food, service, ingredients, design, etc. sends the message that we are an attractive place to visit as a restaurant. However, none of that matters if we can’t meet our customers needs, if they don’t think we are fulfilling their interest for an experience. But if we do, then we assure our relevance with them.
EG: In terms of cooking, we keep current by continuing to create and explore Mexican dishes. We look outside the box and come up with something new using Mexican ingredients or we recreate the classic dishes.
We stay relevant by supporting local business, collaborating with other chefs, and buying local ingredients from suppliers in Edmonton.
CS: Remaining relevant is like playing catch up, but is actually more like a snake eating its own tail. Keeping current automatically happens when people strive to innovate and create, to do things that haven’t been done much, or at all.
BW: Who are your food heroes (whose approach to food and fame do you admire/agree with)?
DB: Many are part of this list…but more recently I would say Enrique Olvera has made a tremendous mark on a worldwide scale with his interpretation of Mexican cuisine. I personally admire Francis Mallmann, Alex Atala, Ferran and Albert Adria, and Geoffrey Zakarian.
CS: Enrique Olvera, Rick Bayless, Alex Stupak, and Diana Kennedy.
BW: You’ve had media spots, very involved in community, and are entertaining to watch…ever thought of doing a regular You-Tube channel dedicated to your craft?
EG: I think we need to keep providing great food and service. I do like the idea of a YouTube channel but our focus for now is consistency, keeping it fresh and interesting for Edmontonian’s to enjoy.
CS: It’d be fun, but right now the focus needs to remain on Rostizado. Particularly with the new arena opening soon!
BW: What’s next for the three homeboys?
DB: Hopefully, a few more interesting, intelligent, delicious restaurants to share with all our guests!
EG: What’s next for us? I think we have dinner plans at Uccellino [laughs].
CS: Ha! We’re way too secretive!
BW: Bonus Question for All: Why is Sills so obsessed with time travel?
DB: Who is Sills [winks]?
EG: It’s impossible and Chris likes to do the impossible!
CS: It just bakes my noodle! I wrote a term paper in university about the Paradox of Time Travel and since then I have done a lot of recreational reading about Superstring theory, quantum mechanics, inter-dimensional hypothesis, multiverse theory, etc. I always imagine things like, what it would be like for say, my 14yr old self to visit me in the present. What I would’ve thought, or done differently, or not at all.
A trip into my mind is no vacation, I’ll tell you that much!
While a trip into the minds of the Tres Carnales are full of insights and unexpected turns, expect their intellect and dynamic personalities to be reflected in their approach to authentic, grounded, on point Mexican cuisine at both Tres Carnales Taqueria and Rostizado.
We may be engaging in a little local food hero worship of our own, but like many of their esteemed food heroes, we are all but assured there are great things coming from these guys now and in the very near future.
Check them out and go back again and again with a vengeance!