Chef Tadd Chapman
A Love Affair With Mexican Culture & Food
by Pat Tyson
Sit down to a good meal with Chef Tadd Chapman and not only will you notice an immediate appreciation for the ingredients that were used to create it, but of the region where the ingredients were cultivated and the hands that worked to grow them. It’s difficult to say whether his passion for such details stemmed from his first role in a kitchen (peeling potatoes in the back of a Vancouver Island restaurant at the age of 15), or from his decades-long love affair with Mexican culture and the flavors that surround it. What can be said, however, is that this dedication to doing things the right way, honoring both creativity and tradition, and creating food with integrity, has been the baseline for every restaurant he’s opened.
When it comes to Chef Chapman’s infamous trio of restaurants in San José del Cabo, everyone has a favorite. The premiere restaurant, Habanero’s Gastro Grill and Tequila Bar, is the perfect blend of bistro cuisine and Mexican fusion. Since 2004, the restaurant has been offering patrons a modern twist on traditional Mexican flavors in an atmosphere that’s both inviting and familiar. Guests know servers on a first name basis and enjoy an abundant tequila selection in an environment that instantly feels like home.
For a more casual setting, stop by Chapman’s gourmet take on casual street food straight from his customized food truck at Baja Bundo. A perfect gathering place for both locals and tourists alike, you can easily find patrons enjoying everything from Sushirittos (yes, you read that right, it’s both sushi and a burrito) to a more traditional, mouth wateringly good pollo frito.
Looking for more of a chic atmosphere? Chapman’s newest venture, Local Uno, provides diners with an experience the Chef himself refers to as “Baja Soul Food.” This restaurant lounge is a foodies paradise with dishes that nourish the mind, body and soul. Staying true to its local, fresh and sustainable roots the kitchen serves up satiating dishes like borrego de crianza (locally sourced lamb) and a decadent Lechon del Carrizal (free range pork).
Finally, foodies and culinary aficionados will delight in Chef Chapman’s flagship restaurant, Don Sanchez, praised by Mexico’s director of Tourism as the Best Restaurant in Los Cabos. It can be said that Don Sanchez is where Chef Chapman’s culinary expertise takes center stage, with a menu that serves as his personal love letter to the farm, ranch, and sea. Don Sanchez pioneers Chapman’s efforts in creating a fully sustainable restaurant movement in Baja, highlighting the necessity of the generations of farmers responsible for Mexico’s vast selection of flavors. Pair such an experience with award-winning wines, hand-picked by the house sommelier, and it’s easy to see why the restaurant is so celebrated.
While Chef Chapman may be best known for his trinity of restaurants, it’s his dedication beyond the kitchen that makes his food an entirely unique experience. Out of the purchase of a six-acre mango farm, Sanchez Organico was born, an organic farm that has been personally developed by Chef Chapman and his team to meet some of the highest sustainability standards. Chef Chapman plays a hand in each crucial role in the farm, from coordinating the immense number of composting projects to selecting the types of fruits and vegetables that will be planted and, later, harvested for the restaurant’s use. It’s his visits to the farm that keep him connected with nature and devoted to the preservation of the land he has learned to call home.
Chef Chapman’s sustainability efforts stretch well beyond Sanchez Organico and are embedded into the culture of Tadd Chapman Restaurant Group as a whole. Staff from each restaurant has undergone extensive training in sustainability initiatives, completing courses in the Ethics of Permaculture and Sustainable Culture Practices, creating the framework for a culinary brand based on environmental and social responsibility. To Chef Chapman, it’s all part of a much bigger picture that stretches beyond his restaurants and touches the individual communities in Mexico. It’s part of a promise to every individual that takes a seat at his table, that he or she can trust each ingredient on their plate, and taste the flavors as nature intended them to be.
Although these extensive measures in organic farming, sustainability, and permaculture may not be necessary, and are far from being considered standard, Chef Chapman and his team have dedicated themselves to the purpose of beginning with something great, ending with something great, and leaving behind something better for future generations. It’s a mission that surpasses culinary notoriety and, instead, prioritizes the preservation of traditional agricultural methods and the hard-working hands behind it all. It’s about craftsmanship that extends from the farm to the plate.
As the Tadd Chapman Restaurant Group continues to evolve, Chef Chapman turns heads with exciting culinary projects, such as the launch of his new food truck Bajabundos, serving up mouthwatering gourmet street food in downtown San José; just one of the many surprises the Chef has up his sleeve!
No matter what the future may hold for Chef Chapman and his team, it’s safe to say that he has left his mark on the growing San José del Cabo food scene, not only as an inspiring chef but as an activist, thought leader, and culinary pioneer.