The newest taqueria on the block (specifically Union Street in Park Slope) is Taco Santo. It comes from Jacques Gautier, who is best known for mashing up South American and Caribbean flavors at Park Slope’s Palo Santo. Soon after the taqueria’s launch this Friday, February 1, he’ll be joining us at Good Spirits on February 13 in collaboration with Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur to serve a thoughtfully paired cocktail and lobster taco small plate. We caught up with Gautier, who recently returned to Brooklyn after spending some time in Mexico City where he was no doubt taking inspiration for his new venue:
Edible Brooklyn: Tell us about your involvement with Good Spirits.
Jacques Gautier: We’ve been involved [with these kinds of Edible events] since the beginning. We’ve tried a lot of different things — we’ve served ceviche, shrimp, skewers, stuff wrapped in bacon — but what we found is our most popular item year after year is tacos. It’s what people line up for and that’s really one of the things that inspired me to open a taqueria. Palo Santo is a little more formal; we serve tacos there, but its not like people come there just for tacos.
EB: So, Taco Santo is the more casual sibling to Palo Santo? Elaborate please.
JG: We do tasting menus, a three-course prix fixe [at Palo Santo]; it’s a little more of a special occasion type of place for a lot of people in this neighborhood. I thought it would be great if we could open a taqueria: a place that’s a little more casual where we can concentrate on our most popular dish.
EB: How is running a taqueria different than running a traditional restaurant?
JG: The biggest difference is our kitchen set-up. The most important thing that’s happening in our kitchen is grinding of corn to make fresh masa and the pressing and cooking of tortillas. Basically, more than half the kitchen is dedicated to the making of tortillas; there’s a station with a large plancha, there’s a corn mill and an area just to grind corn.
EB: So just because it’s a more casual concept doesn’t mean it’s less work?
JG: I wouldn’t say it’s less work — we put the same amount of integrity into everything we do. It’s less work to eat it! (laughs). The consuming of the food is a little more causal and easier. The plating and presentation will be a little more accessible… tacos are really finger food, right?
EB: Right! So will guests get a taste of your new concept at Good Spirits? What kind of tacos have you served in the past?
JG: We usually fill the tacos with anything from pig’s head to cactus to different kinds of fish. What’s so special about the tacos at Good Sprits is we’ll be serving lobster tacos, which is something that’s super popular at Palo Santo, and that we’ll be serving at the taqueria. It’s a little more luxurious, but we’re splurging to celebrate the opening of Taco Santo.
EB: What do you like most about working food events? The food? The people?
JG: Getting a whole bunch of people who love food into one space is really special. The Edible events really have a great crowd and a great following. It’s a room full of people who want to try what we’re serving. Because I’m right there cooking I have a chance to talk to people; when I’m in the kitchen in the restaurant, I don’t usually have that opportunity. I [also] always send my cooks (or whoever is with me) to walk around and try other things. Working as a chef you tend to be working at the same time that restaurants are open. Tasting events like this give me a chance to taste food prepared by chefs all over the city.