Purple Pig executive chef Effy Medrano is a native of Toluca, Mexico. But when he moved to Chicago and began working as a teenager at Spiaggia with chef Tony Mantuano, it set him on a path to cooking Mediterranean cuisine. Medrano said Mantuano, who is a partner at the Purple Pig, not only gave Medrano his first opportunity in the kitchen but was also instrumental in bringing him aboard at the Michigan Avenue restaurant.
On Latinos Leading
“For my part, being Latino and being in charge of one of the places, not that many people actually trust another person to run their restaurants. The new owners, they gave me the opportunity to run it, and he was like, ‘I know you have the potential. Let’s do it.’ And I’m so happy to be here. I mean, how many people from another country is coming here? And they’re like, see that there’s one person, a Latino that’s in charge of the place. They come out to the kitchen and shake their hands and they feel more comfortable being in here. And especially when we have so many Latinos working in here, too. That’s always great.”
On Being Mexican and Cooking Italian
“I always enjoy Mexican food when I go to my sister’s house, but it’s like, OK, well, but I don’t know how to cook it. When I moved to Chicago, I was only 7 years old. So my mom and the rest of the family were in Mexico. And I mean spending most of the time at [Spiaggia], that was kind of like my thing, doing Italian food. I mean, right now my family is always asking me, ‘Hey, can you cook some Mexican food?’ And I’m like, ‘I don't know how to do it!’”
“You don’t have to put that much stuff into the pork in order to get those flavors. And especially when you’re working with the farmers and all the stuff that you know that the product is right. We have pig ears, we have jowl, which is that part, we have pig’s tail, shoulder, everything. Every single part of the pork we work with in here.”
On Surviving COVID-19
“That was hard times … not only just the pandemic but when everything happened on Michigan Avenue, it was so difficult for us. So we decided to close for almost two years and there were so many [things] going on at the same time. And I mean, most of the people that were in the restaurant business, they decided to move somewhere else. And so it was hard, really hard but we’re here. Thank God we’re here.”