Chef Profile: Daniel Tellez

The art of cooking exists in Chef Daniel Tellez’s bones. Coming from a really, really big family in Mexico, Tellez was in the kitchen cooking with his grandmother since he was a kid. The experience was invaluable, as he learned the heart and soul of cooking Mexican food through her. 

He was working as a chef in Mexico City when he got a call from Joanna, one of the owners of Copita, a small mexican restaurant located in downtown Sausalito. They were looking for an executive chef, and Daniel Tellez fit the bill. 

An inherent challenge in taking this job for chef Daniel Tellez was the difficulty of creating an authentic Mexican restaurant outside of Mexico. The American conception of Mexican food is not true Mexican food. It is impossible to really define Mexican food, as it actually varies so much by region. The region that Tellez derives inspiration from is Mexico city and Central Mexico. Some popular dishes in the region are Ceviche and Tacos al pastor, both of which are featured on Copita’s menu. 

He also described some of the staples of Mexican cuisine, as they were before Spanish influence and continue to be today. He referred to the 5 basic ingredients of Mexican food as beans, corn, chile, onions, and tomatoes. Most importantly is corn, as it’s hard to come by a Mexican dish that doesn’t use corn – it’s in tortillas, tostadas, chips. Tellez feels lucky to be in an area where he can source organic corn, as so much corn in the US today is mono cropped GMO corn. 

“Many of my childhood memories were made in my grandmother’s kitchen in Mexico,” says Copita chef Daniel Tellez. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Part of this passion for food manifests in his appreciation for local, fresh, and organic ingredients There are multiple reasons why these values are of importance to him. For one, he says that local produce is the highest quality produce on the market – obviously important in serving high quality food. He also says that local, organic food has different, better flavors. “An apple that’s frozen and sent to you from Washington will not taste the same as an organic, local apple – the flavors are completely different,” he said. Another reason he finds local sourcing to be so important is because it supports the local economy. Copita is dedicated to being a community restaurant, and in being so, wants to support the local community. 

  At Copita, everything is made from scratch, “We don’t have anything canned, we don’t get anything pre-made, we make everything here. We work with our seasonal ingredients. There’s no way we can have anything without our seasonal ingredients,” he said. As a restaurant that serves a lot of seafood, they also have to make sure that they are able to source fresh, local fish, something Tellez works hard to do. This venture, and the contact with different food distributors and farmers keeps things exciting, and keeps Copita’s menu fresh and local. 

Tellez is talented and passionate, and we are lucky to have chefs like him who are devoted to creating fresh, local, delicious food and sharing their creativity with the rest of the world. 

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