The Arizona Republic

Barrio Cafe outpost to open in New York City

Plans to be ‘hands on’ with Wonder program

- Bahar Anooshahr Reach the reporter at Follow @banooshahr on Twitter. Support local journalism. Subscribe to today.

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza is one of the most influentia­l chefs in Phoenix when it comes to Mexican food. She opened Barrio Cafe on 16th Street in 2002, has since become an icon of the local food scene, introducin­g the Valley to elevated, regional Mexican cuisines. She has been a James Beard Best Chef Southwest semifinali­st seven times and won the MLK Jr. service award in January 2022. This year, she was named as a semifinali­st for the national Outstandin­g Chef award by the James Beard foundation.

Soon, diners in New York City will be able to try the cochinita pibil and guacamole with pomegranat­e seeds and chips that Esparza is famous for, thanks to her participat­ion in a program called Wonder.

Wonder offers a new paradigm in high-end food delivery

Led by billionair­e and former CEO of Walmart US e-commerce, Marc Lore, Wonder started as a mobile kitchen in 2019 that would park in front of a customer’s home, cook and deliver the food fresh.

Wonder is not a ghost kitchen. Unlike ghost kitchens, Wonder will have an dine-in option and is vertically integrated, which means it owns all parts of its business, from the kitchen to delivery. This ensures they can control the quality of what gets delivered, and how long it takes.

They also include their participat­ing chefs as shareholde­rs in the company.

“We are trying to bring the best of the best,” said Wonder’s spokespers­on. “That meant the best Mexican food with Esparza.”

Other chefs on the roster include Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Mark Murphy. Chef and humanitari­an Jose Andres also plans to join.

“We were the first ones to sign up with Wonder,” said Esparza who had never offered to-go food because she felt that delivery time would affect the quality of the food arriving at the diner’s house. When she heard about cutting out the third party delivery system, “I said where do I sign up?”

What is on the Barrio Cafe Wonder menu

While the first location on the Upper West Side serves menus from eight chefs, including Esparza, the company plans to take the program nationwide with 30 chefs in the future.

Wonder representa­tives did not have an exact date for an Arizona rollout.

Esparza trained chefs to cook a selection of dishes from the Barrio Cafe menu for Wonder customers in New York. The initial menu includes her famous chips and guacamole, tacos barbacoa, enchiladas suizas, tacos camaron Baja and churros.

Even though the new kitchen is on the other side of the country, Esparza plans to remain very hands on.

“It’s a continual partnershi­p and I have to watch my brand,” Esparza said about Wonder. “If it’s not up to my level, I’ll go down on my sword. I’ll kill it.”

 ?? MEG POTTER/THE REPUBLIC ?? Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe is pictured in front Barrio Cafe in Phoenix on Oct. 3, 2020.
MEG POTTER/THE REPUBLIC Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe is pictured in front Barrio Cafe in Phoenix on Oct. 3, 2020.

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