In the United States, corn is thought of as a summer picnic staple, a surplus crop, or an afterthought to the ever-popular taco. Corn has a long, wild, and diverse history, starting around 7,000 years ago in central Mexico. How did this once wild grass make its way from Mesoamerican staple crop to the heart of Mexican cultural and culinary identity? And how did the unique, native processing technique of nixtamalizatizing corn land in Michelin starred kitchens around the world?
Join Chef Justin Bazdarich of Michelin-starred Oxomoco and Francisco Musi of TAMOA as they explore the rich history of corn and heritage seeds in Mexico, Oxomoco’s journey to nixtamalizing their own corn in house, and an open discussion about who gets to define what is and is not traditional in the kitchen. Enjoy an interactive conversation followed by an informal reception with light bites provided by Oxomoco.
Justin Bazdarich hales from Kansas City, and embarked on to Arizona State University where he majored in industrial design. After his junior year, Justin decided to take a different path and move to NYC. The physical act of making a product, working under a deadline, and using your brain in a creative way were things that appealed to Justin in industrial design so being a chef seemed to be the perfect fit. Justin graduated from the French Culinary Institute with honors and began his career working under Jean-Georges Vongerichten at his flagship restaurant Jean-Georges. Justin climbed the ranks and was eventually promoted to sous chef, before moving on to be the opening chef de cuisine at Perry Street. Under the tutelage of Gregory Brainin, Justin’s culinary vision came to fruition and resulted in a Michelin star. After three productive years at Perry Street, Bazdarich had a desire to learn more about all facets of running a restaurant and when the opportunity arose to work at Culinary Concepts for Jean-Georges, he took it. Culinary Concepts brought Justin on a path to help Jean-Georges open 15 restaurants worldwide. He was responsible for overseeing complete culinary training for the kitchen, and implementation and management on all cost control.
Deciding it was time to finally open his own project, Justin joined forces with a friend from college, Todd Feldman, to open the first Speedy Romeo in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood in 2012. At Speedy, the emphasis is on the wood-fired oven and grill, where Justin turns out pizza and Italian-influenced dishes. After four years of success, and building a loyal following, the pair opened a second Speedy, this time in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. This past year, Justin decided to take his love of Mexican fare, and many trips to Mexico, and open Oxomoco, in partnership with childhood friend Chris Walton. Oxomoco, which borrows its name from the Aztec Goddess of the Night, offers guests wood-fired Mexican fare using techniques and flavors from all regions of Mexico, and calls Greenpoint, Brooklyn home. In 2019, Oxomoco received a Michelin star.
Francisco Musi is a Mexican entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and director of TAMOA, a commercial platform that links communities of farmers that grow and preserve heritage corn and other Mexican heirloom products with restaurants and consumers. Francisco has developed a career in the Mexican food business for more than thirteen years. He has advised and worked on different concepts of Mexican restaurants in Mexico, the United States, and the United Kingdom.