Celebrating Where You Come From: Executive Chef Elia Herrera

Today we’re celebrating Cinqo de Mayo by highlighting one of Toronto’s best Mexican chefs.

Head chef at Los Calibres and former Top Chef Canada star Elia Herrera knows a thing or two about good Mexican cooking. Born and raised in Cordoba, Mexico, Herrera began cooking with her grandmother, Luz Del Carmen Dominguez, at the age of 6. Though she’s now known for the upscale Mexican delicacies at Los Calbibres like ceviche and queso fundito (handmade flour tortillas stuffed with cheese and chorizo), Herrera’s passion for cooking first led her to the sweeter side of food: pastry making. Elia graduated as an Executive Chef with specialization in Pastry from the Culinary Institute of Mexico. Since, she’s trained and cooked all over the world, in countries like Spain, Belgium and Italy.  

In honour of Cinqo de Mayo, we’re giving away two tickets (valued at 85$ each) to Chef Herrera’s Mexican themed Open Kitchen Toronto brunch, taking place June 10th, that features classic Mexican dishes like Huevos Rancheros and Churro pancakes. The brunch also includes signature drinks made from a premium blanco Aguamiel Tequila, which is distilled in Jalisco Mexico and is launching in the LCBO this month. To enter, head to our Instagram and follow further instructions.

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Her family has had an incredibly significant impact on her life and her success. Though some of her first memories with her grandmother are in the kitchen, cooking wasn’t the only impression she left – she was also an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with. At 16 she began her own catering business that took her into the kitchens of celebrities, Ambassadors, and Presidents. Herrera’s grandmother was comfortable in the presence of powerful people and didn’t take crap from anyone, “Men in Mexico were afraid of her.” says Herrera, “One day we were driving down the street and saw a man beating a women. My grandmother stopped the cab, jumped out, and started beating the man with her shoe”. When meeting Herrera it’s immediately palpable that her grandmothers strength of character has passed onto her. She has a presence when she walks into a room or a kitchen. She’s fiercely respected by her staff. When asked if she’s faced any adversity as a female chef through out her time in Canada she states, “I made it known when I moved to Canada, you don’t mess around with me”. 

After stints at Scarpetta and Sassafraz, from going on to becoming the Executive Chef at her own restaurant to becoming a household name on Top Chef Canada, one of the countries biggest cooking shows, one might ask, “What possibly could Herrera reach for next”? In her words, it’s always been about using her platform to give back. “I want to help others in need. Mexico has so many people who are living with next to nothing. I’d love to open a school where chefs can donate their time to teaching others.” Herrera’s strong sense of community and giving back is present right here in Canada as well. She’s one of seven female chefs hosting an exclusive meal in the Open Kitchen Toronto series, a fundraiser that helps raise tuition for two promising young chefs to attend George Brown. Her Mexican themed brunch takes place, June 10th.

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To see the full menu for Chef Herrera’s Open Kitchen Brunch, and for further information on how to purchase tickets, click here.