When Chef Lalo (Lalo is a nickname for every kid named Eduardo in Mexico) Covarrubias was a kid in Guadalajara, he wanted to be a mechanical engineer like his dad. As he got older, his attention turned towards cars and being a mechanic. To afford his desire to buy a car, he started cooking at 14 and the rest, at his young age of 34, is history still in the making.
Chef Lalo got his first taste of the modern food of Mexico working at EIKTE in Guadalajara under Chef Casiano Reyes. It was under Chef Reyes while Lalo was in his late teens that he learned how to work, how to hustle and how to cook soulful Mexican cuisine that would open many doors for him.
One of those doors was an invitation to cook at the G20 Summit for presidents and prime ministers from all over the world, held in Las Cabos, Mexico, in 2012. Lalo made such an impression at that event he was invited to be a part of a new five-star marina hotel & resort opening in San Jose Del Cabo. This adventure was short lived as Hurricane Manuel absolutely crushed that lower part of the Baja Peninsula - dashing all plans of the new property under construction as well as Lalo’s dream job. Never daunted, Lalo returned to Guadalajara where he became the personal chef for the family that owned the Corona beer brand. Two years later, a hurricane struck that family as well in the form of a divorce, and Lalo took a job on the third largest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Independence of the Seas. Lalo was then recruited by well-known Guadalajara Chef Paco Ruano to go work for his friend Chef Javier Plascencia at his first U.S. restaurant, Brasero in San Diego. Lalo took the job as Head Chef at Brasero where both Brasero and Chef Javier were nominated for a James Beard Award in 2017.
Dave Query, chef/owner of Centro says, “It is a small world, full circle, hey look, there’s Kevin Bacon behind that tree story that brought Chef Lalo to us at Centro this last April.”
While watching Super Bowl XLIX in Rosarita, Mexico, Dave and his wife Dana met Chef Javier in 2015 on Javier’s back porch overlooking the famed surf break K39. The three hit it off and Chef Javier invited Dave and former Big Red F Chef Jamey Fader to come to Valle de Guadeloupe for dinner at Javier’s incredible Finca Altazano as well as Erizo in Tijuana and Jazamango in Todos Santos. Dave and Javier became friends and then partners in Query’s 20-year-old LOLA Coastal Mexican restaurant for several years. Chef Javier recommended Lalo as the head chef of LOLA, which he was, before Covid came to town…uninvited.
Centro was opened at 950 Pearl Street by Chef Dave Query in 2006 after he had closed the party packed, rum-fueledRhumba, which he had operated in that same location since 1999.
“Rhumba was like that friend you knew from childhood who always got you into trouble when he came to visit as an adult. We wanted to do something more food focused. We had a huge party on Bob Marley’s Birthday on February 6th, closed Rhumba, did a world wind remodel working around the clock, and opened Centro six weeks later,” says Dave.
“What I am really focusing on is serving Mexican-Mexican food as opposed to Mexican-American food,” says Chef Lalo.
“Mexican food is not what you find in the resorts or on the strip in Cabo or Cancun. That’s the Americanized version, geared for tourists. The passion and the depth of food is in the hands of a group of Mexican chefs all over my country, cooking from our hearts. It’s tribal. We cook with a level of heat (temperature) that Americans associate with burnt, and that we look at as umami.”
“There is a depth of flavor and intelligence of heat (spice) that you don’t often find in restaurants in the US serving Mexican food. That is where we are headed at Centro,” says Dave.
“Just yesterday, Lalo made some fresh ice cream using burnt tortillas. He ground the tortillas into the anglaise base and spun it in the ice cream maker. It was incredible. This is being served on top of a sweet potato brulee. There is a no-rules, have fun, be daring & adventurous movement happening in these Mexican kitchens. Heavy Mediterranean (Med-Mex) nuances, Asian ingredients, non-traditional cooking methods. What is making this Modern Mexican food so delicious and memorable is not being stuck in what Americans have made this cuisine into which I stand guilty of as well, until recently.”
Dave says of Lalo, “I hope he does what’s in his heart, what’s in his gut, and he just cooks from his belly and from his soul. No rules, no barriers, delicious and memorable. That is Mexican food.”
Centro Mexican Kitchen
950 Pearl St., Boulder CO 80302