Txikito (New York, NY), El Quinto Pino (New York, NY) and La Vara (Brooklyn, NY)
Born in Chicago to Argentinean parents, Alex Raij is, together with her husband Eder Montero, the chef and owner of El Quinto Pino, Txikito and La Vara restaurants in New York. Her interest in Spanish cuisine started after reading an article about Ferran Adrià published in 1997 in Food Arts magazine. “I was really struck by the fact that nobody here was talking about him. I loved his inspiration and efforts in the search for authentic flavors. At this moment, I decided I wanted to go to Spain to experiment with textures and distill flavors. I never thought I would end up falling in love with traditional Spanish cuisine”. Her professional foray into Spanish cuisine began with the opening of Meigas restaurant, which coincided with the end of her studies at the Culinary Institute of New York. She met her husband in Meigas’ kitchen and the pair went on to open El Quinto Pino, Txikito and La Vara restaurants. The latter of these, located in Brooklyn, offers Spanish cuisine that reflects its Arab and Jewish roots. For its part, the cuisine at Txikito is based on the idea that, “There are few national dishes in Spain and a lot of regional dishes. Therefore, we have integrated these dishes into the menu through tapas, which are, in fact, a national tradition from north to south. We wanted to choose new dishes to represent Spain – not just paella – in the same way that we wanted to offer wines from regions other than just Rioja”.