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By pairing Latin flavors and decidedly Danish ingredients, Mexican-American chef Rosio Sanchez is changing the way Denmark views Latin American home cooking. The acclaimed chef’s eponymous restaurant—inspired by the neighborhood cantinas in her parents’ homeland—has met with a warm welcome in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro neighborhood. Here, Sanchez explains her mission to make tacos and churros staples of the Scandinavian culinary scene.

Are there any commonalities between Danish and Mexican cuisine?
I haven’t seen any commonalities with the two, but I can say that both love their pork!

Why did you decide to integrate local ingredients into traditional Mexican dishes?
In the beginning, integrating local ingredients was a matter of necessity—making certain things in a way where we wouldn’t have to import everything. I quickly embraced the idea of using them because there are so many great options, particularly gooseberries and Danish dairy products.

Does that compromise the original essence of a recipe at all?
At Sanchez, we like to approach our dishes in a way that incorporates Mexican flavors to create a feeling of home cooking. Although we’re inspired by a lot of Mexican dishes, we don’t actually cook traditional Mexican cuisine. Instead, we incorporate bits and pieces into our menu so that it’s recognizable to those familiar with Latin American flavors and cooking techniques.

How does relying on locally sourced ingredients affect the menu?
We like to be inspired by the seasons, but we aren’t limited by them. Tomatoes, for example, are essential to all of the different salsas that we make, so they come from organic farms in Spain and Italy. But we also have a lot of seasonal items throughout the menu. It’s a healthy mix of both.

Design firm La Metropolitana designed Sanchez in the spirit of a cantina. Why was it important to bring not just Mexican cuisine but an authentic Mexican atmosphere with you to Denmark?
I fell in love with what the guys from La Metropolitana are doing because it’s so straightforward, modern and confident. They’ve managed to capture a modern Mexican atmosphere that, to me, also feels very international. I hit it off with them straight away, and they knew exactly how I wanted Sanchez to look and feel with minimal conversation. The place doesn’t scream Mexico, but there’s that underlying feel to it. The subtlety was important to me. I didn’t want our guests to feel like they’re going to a themed restaurant.

What dish best represents Sanchez?
There are a few, but I’ll mention two: the soft-shell crab taco and the churro dessert. The soft-shell crab is dipped in recado negro batter, which is basically a tempura batter made with charred chilis so it looks black. It’s fried and served with mayonnaise and pickled onions. The churro is an open-faced churro sandwich made with churro dough piped into a spiral, fried and dipped in Ceylon cinnamon sugar. It’s topped with a frozen mezcal parfait, rosehip bitter cream and orange zest.

If we were offered a glimpse into your home pantry or fridge, what would we find?
You’d definitely find a variety of great coffee and teas, granolas and chilis, but probably nothing beyond that. I hardly ever cook at home because I usually work 16-hour days. If I do eat anything at home, it’s usually something like yogurt or fried eggs.

Your family is from Mexico, and you were born in Chicago. What was their reaction to you settling in Copenhagen?
My parents have always been supportive of my decision to travel and work in the places that would give me the best opportunities. The first few years into my living in Copenhagen, my mother was a little confused by it, but after I’d been here for five years she learned to accept it. I was the youngest child—but it’s hard anytime your kids decide to move away, I suppose. My parents were immigrants to the US themselves, so I think they understood why I moved away. It’s been the best decision I’ve made.

This story originally appeared on Skandiastyle.com

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