Chef Carlos Valdez: El Rey del Baja California Sur

Categories: Tijuana Sí!
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Chef Carlos Valdez


For decades Baja California Sur has been defined--unfairly-- by the OC on the Sea of Cortez tourist spot: Cabo San Lucas, where American spring breakers go to suck down margaritas, eat nachos until they burst, perform graceless acts at wet t-shirt contests, and develop pre-melanoma lesions under the warmth of the Baja sun. During the 3-year media blitz that has descended upon Baja California, the southern half of the peninsula has stayed on the sidelines, or so it would seem.

I first visited Buffalo BBQ in La Paz back in 2009 and was impressed by the thick cuts of Sonoran beef cooked on a Santa Maria style grill, and the excellent hamburgers, but the menu lacked depth--most of the interesting items were off menu. In the years since my initial visit, Sonoran-born Chef Carlos Valdez has has come up in a major way. On a recent visit to Buffalo BBQ I was surprised by an expanded restaurant and a revitalized master chef of the Sonoran grill and Baja cuisine, a style he calls BajaSon. Chef Carlos Valdez is the best Baja chef you haven't heard of, and is set to reign in Baja California Sur. 

Chef Carlos Valdez comes from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, where carne asada is as serious as  mole in el Valle de Oaxaca, carnitas in Quiroga, Michoacan; or  barbacoa in Tulancingo, Hidalgo. Sonora also has the distinction of being the greatest surf and turf culture in Mexico, which a huge cattle industry of healthy Angus steer, and the seafood treasures from the Sea of Cortez.

Valdez began a Sonoran style surf and turf restaurant 10 years as a frustrated civil engineer longing to be a professional grill man in La Paz, which is the most exciting food destination in Southern Baja California. He has never had any formal training--he's completely self taught.

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Santa Maria style grill at Buffalo BBQ


He mans his custom Santa Maria style grill like a ship's captain orchestrating a daring maneuver at sea, dramatically adjusting the heavy grate. With stern vigilance, he breaks away from socializing frequently to give his young chef instructions as a massive 2 kilo cabreria(bone-in, beef tenderloin) is set down, one of his favorite Sonoran cuts of steak. Valdez's beef comes from a small family ranch in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora called Rancho Los Olvidados, where natural Angus steaks are cut to Valdez's specifications.   

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Bill Esparza
    



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Bill Esparza
Ceviche of 5 clams

Valdez's seafood cocktailing skills are among the best in all of Baja. Buffalo BBQ's ceviche of 5 clams is an explosive combination of local clams with a smooth and peppery citrus and amaranth potion --Valdez rattled off the nearby islands where some of the clams came from in the Sea of Cortez--including geoducks, reinas, chocolatas( a local delicacy), blancas islenas, and roñosas. Baja chefs are the best high seafood cocktailers in Mexico, and this ranks high among the most memorable ceviches I've encountered.


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9 comments
Martha Ramos
Martha Ramos

This is ridiculous! i have been many times to La Paz and Buffalo is not the best in baja sur by a long shot. Buffalo has gone down. The steaks used to be good but quality is not the same recently. It used to be just bad service but good food. Now it's bad food and bad service. I am sharing this with my foodie friends.

flaquita
flaquita

#buffalobbq is the best restaurant!!! excelent dinner!!

paceña
paceña

#buffalobbq ha revolucionado la cocina en BCS y ha hecho de la calle Madero un corredor de restaurantes que hace a La Paz mas atractiva para los turistas, la Pasión por la cocina del Chef Valdez es lo que la hace unica y diferente a todas las demas! hay gusto para todo el mundo pero definitivamente #buffalobbq es la numero 1.

salsipuedes
salsipuedes

Buffalo BBQ #1 in Baja sur???? LOL!!!

Bill Esparza
Bill Esparza

 After dining in Cabo, La Paz, Loreto, Todos Santos, Santa Rosalia, Mulege, and a bunch of other small towns in between; and attending events featuring BCS chefs--yes, absolutely . Lot's of great chefs in all those places, but Valdez has embraced the cuisine that's in tune with BC and is killin' it.

There are too many chefs in BCS not doing any Mexican cuisine--too much mediocre farm to table Cal cuisine, and international cooking.

salsipuedes
salsipuedes

I agree with your opinion that too many chefs are not doing enough Mex cooking, and if they are, its mostly mainland Mex in style. Baja sur is NOT Baja north, and most people don't understand that, Baja sur has its own style, different from the north, locals know it, but outsiders rarely can. Anyways, Buffalo is very good and a place you have to try, but the king?? top ten for sure IMHO.

Bill Esparza
Bill Esparza

 Well then, I rest my case. No opposition to the throne? The king of the south he is.

foodgps
foodgps

Tijuana is as far from La Paz as L.A. is from Portland, so there are bound to be differences in terms of ingredients and influences. Still, there was no doubt about how much I enjoyed a recent dinner at Buffalo Bar-B-Q. Excellent, and we barely touched the steaks. If there are nine restaurants as good as that in Baja California Sur, by all means, let us know.

Bill Esparza
Bill Esparza

 I as yourself, understand completely that BCS has it's own cuisine, and unique regional foods. I love the sweet bean empanadas, and so many of its unique foods--amazing. Who are these other 9 you speak of, or is that a random number? Only chef in Mexico to do high Sonoran cuisine--this is important, because Sonoran cuisine is the next logical northern cuisine to take off. Other northern states are more traditional, which is fine by me, but I like the full spectrum of Mexican dining.

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