Why He’s Amazing Because despite the critical acclaim he received for his modernist desserts at some of the country’s top restaurants, Stupak has traded in his pastry tools to make extraordinary tacos.
Born 1980; Leominster, MA
Culinary School The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY)
Quintessential Dish Tacos of beer-braised tongue with árbol chile salsa
On Opening a Mexican Restaurant “Here’s the story: A pastry chef likes Mexican food, has never cooked it, but decides to do it anyway.”
Essential Ingredient Empellón Taqueria goes through more than 250 avocados each day to make its excellent guacamole.
First Job Prep cook at Bobby Chic’s Italian Café in his hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts. “I’d clean all the equipment, peel potatoes, make piccata butter. I’ve come a long way.”
Secret Skill “I’m a really really really good omelet maker. I’m awesome at three-fold French omelets. But I also cooked at Denny’s, and that’s not how they make them there. Put it this way: If my two restaurants tanked—if this Mexican restaurant thing doesn’t work out—I could get a job at a diner and slay it.”
Inspirations Grant Achatz and Wylie Dufresne. “I hold them both as personal models. But before I worked with either of them, the person I idolized the most was Albert Adrià. I got a copy of his pastry book, Los Postres De El Bulli as a gift. I became obsessed with the book. I would come in to Clio on my days off so I could make recipes from it.”
“I knew that Alex Stupak was a pastry genius from the desserts he made at Manhattan’s WD-50 and Chicago’s Alinea. So I was surprised when he opened a taqueria—especially because he had no Mexican cooking experience. Stupak is an exacting chef, though, and I should’ve known that Empellón Taqueria and the more ambitious Empellón Cocina would be sensational. Stupak makes the best salsa I’ve ever had, blending smoked cashews and chipotle, and also my new favorite guacamole, studded with sea urchin so it’s extra-luscious. He brings equal ingenuity to tacos stuffed with ingredients like house-brined short rib pastrami. ‘It’s reverse colonization,’ he says. ‘It’s what happens when Mexico settles in New York.’”—Kate Krader
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.