When Eddie Hernandez came to the U.S. from Mexico, with his band and the dream of making a record, he spoke no English, unless you count “grande chicken” when he ordered at a fast-food joint. But now, more than thirty years later, as the executive chef and business partner of Taqueria del Sol, he’s responsible for some of the most popular and exciting food in Georgia and Tennessee. Accolades have followed. Taqueria del Sol was named a top restaurant by Bon Appétit. “You will wait in line, but the food is worth it,” said Martha Stewart, who visited. “A run-away success,” raved USA Today. Then, last year, came a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Restaurateur of America.
Turnip Greens & Tortillas explores the shared similarities of Southern and Mexican food that Eddie discovered. Like Eddie’s Turnip Greens, cooked the way his grandmother, Chelo, prepared wild greens in Mexico, with onions, garlic, and chile de árbol. Or like Memphis Tacos, pork shoulder dry-rubbed and barbecued, served with a thick, sweet barbecue sauce and creamy slaw, or Slow-Cooker Barbacoa (page 68) made with ease in a slow cooker so you won’t heat up the kitchen in the summer and perfect for a Cinco De Mayo Feast. Eddie, who calls himself “a born-again Southern boy,” never worries about being “food correct.” He adds sugar to his grits to balance the heat of jalapeños. He puts sweet pickle relish in the gravy for buttermilk fried chicken. And he even won a barbecue contest with ribs that he baked in the oven! As he says, “In Mexico, we eat what we like. We take shortcuts. We improvise. We adapt to whatever is around us. That’s what makes us such good cooks.”
Eddie Hernandez is the executive chef of Taqueria del Sol, with locations in Georgia and Tennessee. He and his business partner, Mike Klank, were nominated for a 2017 James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur Award. His recipes have appeared in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Southern Living, and Garden & Gun. He came to the U.S. to play rock and roll with his band, has been mayor of a small town in Texas, and a member of the local fire brigade before returning to his first love: cooking.