We all know who Danny Trejo is. How you might know the noted American actor is as much an interesting game as it is with any other actor. Which movie you first saw him in may determine what comes to mind, though he does have a type.
There is a new generation, however, that is getting to know him as something other than an actor; he is also a restauranteur. In his new book, Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes & Stories from L.A., he dishes about the restaurant business, shares recipes and tips, and offers his own story through his history and his food.
“How does a man known for playing merciless, shirtless, tattooed, gun-toting, vengeance-thirsty, knife-throwing tough guys become the face of a restaurant group selling award-winning tacos, authentic barbacoa, and kale salad? I say this a lot and Trejo’s Tacos is proof of it: It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”
Danny Trejo is not your typical actor, and this is not your typical cookbook.
In fact, you could split this book into thirds. It is almost equal parts memoir, cookbook, and love letter to Los Angeles.
No, I haven’t attempted any of the recipes yet, but in time I will. The memoir part is absolutely fabulous, and I’d love hundreds of actual pages of an autobiography from Danny if he’d be willing to write it. This will suffice for now. And as a love letter to L.A. I’ve not experienced anything this lovey-dovey towards the City of Angels since the last time I heard Randy Newman’s ubiquitous chorus blasting out of my speakers.
These recipes are written for everyone. In fact, the book acknowledges that “you don’t have to cook every single component each time if you don’t feel like it. Look at a recipe and cook it the way it makes sense for you and your life.” There are even suggestions to, “if you’re pressed for time, go ahead and just substitute plain white or brown rice –even takeout Chinese rice works!”
That’s the kind of down-to-earth cooking I can deal with, and it’s another thing that makes this cookbook stand out. The few others that have come across my radar don’t often acknowledge that you have a life that doesn’t allow the time needed to be a full-time cook.
Despite this mainly serving as a cookbook, it covers a lot of ground: racism, healthy eating, eating philosophies, restaurants, good general how-to-cook principles, and sports. At the center of it all is the wonderful story of Danny Trejo and his love for L.A.
Is this a book for you? Yes, and it doesn’t matter who you are. Danny Trejo shares his stories and philosophies, but he’s also attempting to feed you with high-quality food that you can recreate at home. His restaurant, which bears the same name as the book, is a success because it’s not just another celebrity name-brand. It’s a passion project, not a vanity one. Do yourself a favor and pick this up for yourself.
This paragraph in particular is a great example of the fun irreverence that Trejo brings to both cookbooks and memoirs:
“I wish I’d had the book you’re holding in your hands twenty years ago. It would’ve made my life a lot easier. But back then it wouldn’t have been possible. There wasn’t a modern Mexican food revolution happening across the country – there was no such thing as a vegan cauliflower taco! Now there are hundreds of Mexican cookbooks that claim to offer the most authentic, regional, cheffy, easy, technique-drive, healthy, mind-blowing recipes out there. My book is none of those things. It’s a crazy mash-up of the sometimes healthy, Mexican-adjacent, vegan-ish, always delicious food we serve at Trejo’s.”
As this is a cookbook, you probably want to know if I’ll be attempting any of the recipes. Well, the master recipe for the Chicken Tikka is pretty enticing, though I’m not sure if I’ll go with the bowl or the taco. The Bacon Cheeseburger taco looks incredible, and as a fan of breakfast at any meal, the breakfast burrito is also on my short-order list. All of the recipes look great, and I’m sure you’ll find your own Trejo favorites to try.
Fill your mind and your stomach, and don’t skip this delicious offering.