Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with dLeña
Thursday September 14, 2023
Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off tomorrow Friday, September 15 and runs through Sunday, October 15. To honor the occasion, Richard Sandoval Hospitality, which operates MVT’s own dLena is launching a new chef cohort program: Old Ways New Hands by Chef Richard Sandoval. The initiative, celebrates the next generation of Hispanic Chefs, Creators, and Restaurateurs with a cohort aimed at teaching culinary skills and entrepreneurship by Chef Sandoval. The cohort will spotlight the next generation of chefs and creators who use their platforms to authentically preserve their cultures through cuisine. Read more and learn how to apply to the program by visiting www.oldwaysnewhands.com.
One such chef to already achieve in the mission of using their platform “to authentically preserve their cultures through cuisine” is dLeña Executive Chef, Carlos Camacho. Chef Camacho grew up in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico before immigrating alone to America at the age of 16. He slowly worked his way up through kitchen ranks to be named Executive Chef at dLeña in 2021. Under Chef Camacho, dLeña was featured in the 2022 edition of the MICHELIN Guide DC and named a Best of Modern Luxury DC Award Winner 2022. Read more of his inspiring story in the interview we did with him below and make a reservation to experience the modern Mexican cooking for yourself soon:
MVT CID: How did you get your start in the restaurant industry and how did it help propel you to where you are now?
Chef Camacho: My first job in the industry was as a dishwasher at California Pizza Kitchen in Tysons Corner. I came to this country when I was 16 years old with no chance of going to high school because during that time my parents were not here, and they needed to sign a guardian letter for me. I remember I was in desperate need of learning English but for obvious reasons it was not easy for me since I didn’t have the chance to attend school. Then, when I was 18, I challenged myself to work as a food runner and busser because it helped me learn more of the language. Since that day all those years ago, I’ve been “knocking doors and breaking stones” to get where I am now. Every time I remember those hard days, it makes me put that much more effort into reaching my personal goals and career achievements.
MVT CID: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Chef Camacho: Heritage means being the spokesperson for your roots, your culture, traditions, and flavors your family and your country of origin have entrusted to you. It shows what many other people might be unaware of, specifically if they are in another country.
MVT CID: What dish do you make either at dLeña or for yourself that most connects you with your roots in Mexico?
Chef Camacho: Every dish we make at dLeña has the feeling of my Mexican roots and flavors in one way or another, but the dish that I am most proud of is the camarónes a la diabla. It is a dish that my mother cooked for me and my brothers since we were little ones. Every time I am at the expo and I smell those smells of “sauce macha,” made with a base of dried chilies, they transport me to the dining room of my parents’ house when we all sat at a table waiting to see what my mother had cooked for us.
MVT CID: How has your experience been in Mount Vernon Triangle?
Chef Camacho: Although I have been in the DMV area for many years, this is the first time I have worked in the Mount Vernon Triangle area. It has been a great experience and I love how the area continues to attract more visitors and see the neighborhood continuing to grow. It has been great to see how much this part of the city has developed over the last few years.