[Immigrantrightsnynj] Kitchen Ambition
Immigrant Rights NYNJ
immigrantrightsnynj at list.afsc.org
Sun Feb 17 14:14:18 EST 2008
February 17, 2008
The City Visible
DOMINGO TORRES, a former dishwasher and line cook, manages the kitchens of La Palapa, a popular Mexican restaurant in the East Village, and its second location, La Palapa Rockola, across town.
But Mr. Torres is reluctant to describe himself as the head chef of the two restaurants, festive places that are known for their authentic Mexico City cuisine of moles and tacos.
"When you are a chef, you never stop creating new things," said Mr. Torres, a soft-spoken 33-year-old. "I feel that I will never be finished learning."
When he was 14, Mr. Torres set off from Morelos, a small state in central Mexico, where he had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to help his father farm tomatoes, jalapeños and other vegetables. Soon after arriving in New York, Mr. Torres began working as a dishwasher at the Telephone Bar and Grill in the East Village.
There, he made his way up the ranks to line cook. And in 2000, when the manager, Barbara Sibley, opened La Palapa with her business partner, Margaritte Malfy, at 77 St. Marks Place near First Avenue, Mr. Torres was brought in as chef.
In 2003 he was also put in charge of cooking at La Palapa Rockola when it opened, on Avenue of the Americas near Washington Place. Mr. Torres became a permanent resident of the United States last year and plans to apply for citizenship.
Mr. Torres, who is the sole financial supporter of his parents in Mexico, now has a family of his own in this country. He and his wife, Enedina, who live in an apartment next to a convenience store in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, have three children: Javier, 11, Joseph, 3, and Vanessa, 8 months.
Mr. Torres is not sure whether he will always be a chef. "It's hard to work so much," he said, "but I take time for each thing, work and family. And I try to be filled with energy."
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