WLE Growth Gurus

Zarela Martinez, Author & Mexican Food Authority
Leading U.S. Restaurateur


Zarela Mart?nez, one of this generation's leading U. S. restaurateurs, was born and raised in Mexico but began cooking professionally during the late 1970's in El Paso, Texas. With the encouragement of Paul Prudhomme and Craig Claiborne, who had been impressed by her vivid Mexican food, she made some nationally noted guest-chef appearances and in 1983 moved her business to New York. Here she quickly made her mark as menu-designer and later executive chef for Cafe Marimba, the city's first serious attempt to recreate regional Mexican cuisine with local resources. A loyal following of diners and food writers responded eagerly when in 1987 she decided to start her own restaurant, Zarela.

Since its opening 17 years ago, New Yorkers have taken Zarela to their hearts. A favorite meeting spot as well as a culinary standard-setter, it regularly wins superlative reviews and professional awards. Now Ms. Martinez is helping cooks and diners everywhere discover the unique Mediterranean-and African-accented regional cooking of Veracruz State through her 13-part public television series Zarela! La Cocina Veracruzana, now airing throughout the country. Her companion cookbook, Zarela's Veracruz (just out in paperback) (Houghton Mifflin 2001) is a culinary voyage of discovery every bit as irresistible as her seminal book Food from my Heart (Macmillan 1992) and the acclaimed The Food and Life of Oaxaca (Macmillan 1997).
In her continuing commitment to bringing regional Mexican food to New York, Zarela has launched an ongoing series of gastronomic festivals featuring foods from different states in Mexico.

In addition to her restaurant work and writing, Ms. Martinez carries on an extensive catering business and gives Mexican cooking lessons as well as lecture/demonstrations on Mexican cuisine and culture, and has acted as a marketing consultant for such clients as Unilever Best Foods, Nestl?, Marriott and Taco Bell.

Zarela's exciting and colorful new Mexican-inspired collection for the home including beautiful things for the kitchen, the table, the bed and bath is now for sale at select WalMart stores and other retail locations under the Zarela Casa label. Also now available is Zarela's Mexican Kitchen, a recipe greeting card collection for Galison.

Ms. Mart?nez has made many guest appearances on a wide variety of television programs such as "Julia Child: Cooking with Master Chefs" and "Martha Stewart." She is active in organizations including CityMeals on Wheels, SOS, The New York Public Library, the The Women's Forum and Women's Venture Fund, and the Hispanic Children's Fund.

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