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Josef Centeno facts for kids

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Josef Centeno is an American chef, restaurateur and cookbook author who specializes in Tex-Mex cuisine. He was nominated for a James Beard award for Best Chef in February 2020.

Early life and education

Centeno grew up in a Tejano family in San Antonio. He grew up eating his great-grandmother's Tex-Mex cooking, which he described as, "all from scratch and very simple—it’s what you would call farm-to-table, because they had a little garden and a little produce stand." Centeno's father was a butcher and his great-grandfather, Joe Centeno Sr., founded Centeno supermarkets, the first chain of independent Latino groceries in the US.

Centeno graduated from San Antonio Academy, Central Catholic Marianist High School and the Culinary Institute of America.


Centeno opened Bäco Mercat, a Spanish-inspired restaurant, in 2011.

Bar Amá was named for his maternal great-grandmother, an immigrant from Mexico during the Mexican Revolution, who Centeno said cooked Tex-Mex food. Centeno described his great-grandmother's food as "Simple cooking that wasn’t authentically Mexican but not the melted-cheese-topped stuff people usually talk about when describing Tex-Mex." In June 2019 his restaurant Orsa & Winston, a Japanese- and Italian-inspired restaurant, earned a Michelin star. In July of 2019 he opened Amácita in Culver City.

During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic Centeno was one of the first chefs to shut down his restaurants entirely, telling his employees told "to file for unemployment [right then], because by [the following] week, it was going to be a shitshow.” Orsa & Winston is the only of his restaurants to have reopened after the coronavirus lockdowns.


Centeno's first cookbook, Baco: Vivid Recipes from the Heart of Los Angeles (2017), co-written with his life partner and former LA Times food editor Betty Hallock, focussed on the cuisine of Los Angeles. Food & Wine said it was "about being an Angeleno and an American who breaks boundaries and celebrates multicultural flavors." LAist named it to their list of "essential cookbooks for the modern Angeleno."

Centeno's second cookbook Amá: a modern Tex-Mex kitchen ( 2019), also co-written with Hallock, was published by Chronicle Books. The New Yorker named it one of the best books of the year and Eater one of the best cookbooks of fall of 2019.


Centeno, who says he "grew up during the commercialization of Tex-Mex", originally avoided cooking Tex-Mex and instead, "ran as far away from San Antonio as I could. I moved to New York and got into French cooking." According to the Wall Street Journal, Centeno sees Tex-Mex as "not a cuisine based on processed cheese. It is rather a genre of cooking developed by necessity, by people uprooted from where they came from, who happened to arrive in Texas."


In February 2020 Centeno was named a semifinalist for Best Chef by the James Beard Foundation.

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