Rising Star Chef Ricardo Valdes of El Xolo - Biography

Seattle, WA

January 2020

Growing up in Oxnard, California, first generation American Ricardo Valdes was influenced by his grandmother’s relationship to food, family, and the Mexicxan community. Her house was the welcoming neighborhood hub for newly arrived and more established Mexican families. She had a garden that included avocado trees and cactuses, and, inside, menudo was served every Sunday. On holidays, his grandmother's door was always open. This spirit of hospitality was ingrained in Valdes, who had cooks on boths sides of his family, but didn’t consider a career in it, at first.   

He graduated from the University of California San Diego with a degree in Biology in 2001, and later enrolled in the culinary program at the Art Institute in Santa Monica. Valdes dropped out after four months in favor of learning on the job as part of the team at Dominique Crenn’s first restaurant Adobe. After cooking at Cleo by SBE in Hollywood, Valdes moved to Seattle, first becoming chef de cuisine of Brandon Pettit’s Delancey and then joining Matt Dillon’s team at London Plane, where he cooked from 2012 to 2015. Working with Pettit again, Valdes helped develop the menu at Essex, and began hosting Tiki & Taco nights in the new space.

After the birth of his twins, Valdes and his wife, Amy Brown, returned to California to be close to family. In 2015, Valdes became executive chef of L.A. Chapter at the Ace Hotel, but eventually saw something different for his career. The family moved back to Seattle and Valdes took the role of executive chef at London Plane. Inspired by the success of Tiki & Taco nights, Valdes opened El Xolo in early 2019 in the former Neon Taco space inside Nacho Boracho. Mountains of nachos and more than 10,000 smoked brisket tacos later, Valdes opened cafe Raiz before the year was out, with his longtime friend Chef Kenny Villegas and the spirit of hospitality inherited from his grandmother. 

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