Aarón Sánchez and his uncle Tio in an Airbnb home
September 2019

Award-winning chef and author Aarón Sánchez finds home, community, and culinary inspiration with Airbnb

Celebrated chef Aarón Sánchez is always looking for inspiration in out-of-the way places. The master of modern cuisine finds his inspiration in those little restaurants on small side streets where only locals eat. That’s why Sánchez stays in homes booked on Airbnb when he’s on the road for work, sometimes for 6 months or more.

“When you live next to people, it's very intimate and it's something that is very personal,” he says, “and that's how Airbnb helps me continue that constant source of home and inspiration.”

Neighbors in the places where he stays are often happy to share what Sánchez fondly refers to as “the intel.” “They give me that lead,” he says, often pointing him toward a “neighborhood joint that otherwise I wouldn't have found. Staying in a home facilitates that.”

A home recently booked on Airbnb in Koreatown during a business trip to Los Angeles did just that. By being in the neighborhood, mixing with the locals and eating at local restaurants, Sánchez discovered Korean flavors he could mix with his own traditional recipes. A dinner out at a Korean restaurant with his uncle, Tio Mario, followed by a visit to a local market, led to some immediate experimentation in the modern, fully-equipped kitchen at the house. With his uncle at his side, a new recipe was born: tacos made with kimchi jicama slaw.

Join Aarón and his uncle Tio as they explore Los Angeles.

 

Homes for a traveling family

Staying in homes, especially during long trips, has allowed Sánchez to keep his uncle close. For the last 10 years they’ve been living together, cooking together, discovering new things, new places, and developing new ideas. “He has seen me through turbulent times in my life and been that rock for me,” Sánchez says. “He's a fantastic cook, funny, genuine and we maintain that connection to our culture through speaking Spanish every day, and through what we cook in the places we book on Airbnb.”

Because they’re staying together in a house with a kitchen big enough for 2, Tio can be Sánchez’s “right hand man prep guy.” He chops and stirs. He monitors a stew, or a pot of beans, and makes fresh tortillas. Tio and Sánchez can share some friendly banter over a hot griddle. It keeps Sánchez on his toes, making it a place where he continues to do his best work while traveling.

Relationships with family and friends have always led to great things for Sánchez. He got his start helping his mother, a well-known restaurateur and cookbook author, by preparing traditional Mexican foods for her catering business before taking a professional role in her New York City restaurant. Now a big personality on popular shows like Iron Chef and Gordon Ramsey’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back, Sánchez still finds inspiration in a home-like setting with his family close, along with a much-needed escape from long days in the fast pace of the television studio.

When I'm looking for the creative process, it makes sense that I come to a place where I feel safe, and where I have a slice of home. That's important. And if I'm in a place booked on Airbnb, a place that reminds me of remnants of home, that’s when I'm capturing my mama's recipes.

— Aarón Sánchez, chef & author

And there are those other things, those amenities these homes away from home offer Sánchez and his family that make life on the road so much better. Whether it’s a swimming pool, or a long driveway where he can throw a football with his son, Yuma. All those things are important and crucial.

The kitchen is the heartbeat of the home

It’s food that brings everything together, Sánchez says. Food is relevant and poignant, he likes to say, because it allows you to embrace many different influences and keep growing. And it needs to come together in the right setting, he adds. “Airbnb allows you to create that perfect setting,” he says. “Happiness at every corner.”

Gas stoves, lots of shelf and counter space, and all the things he needs are found in the kitchens he finds in homes booked on Airbnb. So once he’s inspired by what someone proudly presents as “grandma’s recipe” at the restaurant around the corner, he knows he’ll be able to get cooking right away in what he describes as “the heartbeat of a house.” “A kitchen is the hub,” he says. “That's where people congregate and tend to talk most. That's probably where you spend the most time in the house is in your kitchen, and that right there is the anchor of a great home on Airbnb.”

When he’s at home, he’s in his sanctuary, Sánchez says. “That's where I can be myself. That's where I entertain and Airbnb allows me to find all the particular nuances and little things that I like.”

 

Recipe for Aarón's “El Kimchi” tacos

Aarón's El Kimchi Tacos

Pico de gallo

  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, cored, small dice
  • 1 small yellow onion, small dice
  • 2T cilantro, chiffonade
  • 1 ea garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 ea lime
  • Kosher salt

Method

  • Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and season to taste

Cactus and jicama kimchi…aka “El Kimchi”

  • 1 ea medium paddle Cactus, de-thorned
  • 1 ea small jicama, cleaned and cut into matchsticks 1/8”
  • 1 ea small red onion, sliced
  • 2T red wine vinegar
  • 2T white sugar
  • 1T kochujang
  • 1t kosher salt
  • 1t fish sauce
  • 1t Korean chili flakes
  • 2T chipotle adobo
  • 1T jalapeno, chopped
  • 2T cilantro, chopped

Cactus method

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil (one that will fit the cactus)
  • Carefully clean the cactus, holding the stem, take your knife and glide it along the cactus paddle to cut off the thorns. Trim off the outer layer around the paddle
  • Prepare an ice bath. When the water comes up to a boil, salt the water and blanch the cactus for 4 minutes. Place the cactus in the ice bath when done
  • Dry the cactus using paper towels and cut the cactus into 1/8” batons

Kimchi method

  • Combine all the ingredients into a bowl, season to taste and place into an airtight container

Carne asada marinade

  • 3 ea garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2T while granulated sugar
  • ¼ c ancho chili powder
  • 1T ground black pepper
  • 2T kosher salt
  • ½ large bu cilantro, leaves and stems well rinsed, chopped
  • 1ea orange, juiced
  • 2 ea limes, juiced
  • ¼ c mirin
  • 1- 12oz can Cass beer (or other lager beer)
  • 2T fish sauce
  • 2T Korean chili flakes
  • 2T red wine vinegar
  • 2T Kochujang
  • 1T liquid from canned chipotle 
  • 2T EVOO
  • 2# skirt steak or flap meat
  • 4” flour tortillas
  • 1/2c cilantro leaves- for garnish

Method

  • Combine all the ingredients into a bowl (except for meat, tortillas, and garnishing cilantro leaves) and season to taste. Add meat into bowl and marinade for a minimum of 4 hours
  • When ready to cook, pre-heat the grill to med high
  • Remove steak from marinade and cook on each side for about 4 minutes. Rest and slice thin
  • Warm the tortillas on the grill
  • Place meat inside tortilla, garnish with pico de gallo, el kimchi, and lastly finish with cilantro leaves

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