American cuisine

Local Latin American Cuisine and University Events Spice Up Hispanic Heritage Month | Characteristics

The rear view of the Mayan Kitchen dining area. (Photo provided by Benjamin and Jacob Lemus)

Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on September 15, marked the first day of a long annual period of recognition and celebration of 30 days of the long history, unique culture and vital contributions of the Latin community. American.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a true celebration of the heritage, history and contributions of Hispanics and Latin American cultures, ”said Christopher Stokes, deputy director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “The importance of the month is evident as we discover contributions regarding the cultural impact and influence on our global community. “

The month is filled with independence anniversaries that Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate on September 15. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and 18, respectively.

A long-standing tradition since its inception in 1968, it began as a Memorial Week, but eventually expanded to a month. The observation lasts until October 15, so there is still plenty of time for UTC students to participate both off and on campus.

Local Latin American cuisine

Facade of the Mayan cuisine. (Photo provided by Benjamin and Jacob Lemus)

Off-campus, students who want to not only learn about Hispanic culture, but also a taste of it, should consider taking an eleven-minute or five-minute drive to Chattanooga’s Mayan cuisine.

The restaurant, founded by Benjamin and Jacob Lemus with help from Lee Epstein, offers a diverse mix of authentic Latin American fare, an atmosphere designed by the owner himself, and ever-so attentive staff for a truly eye-opening experience. .

Local Latin American cuisine

Upon entry, guests are greeted by the hosts. Mayan Kitchen has a unique decorating style that sets them apart. Wednesday September 22, 2021 (Photo by Dayna Blackburn)

Upon entering, the reception desk greets customers with the restaurant logo prominently above their heads.

The bespoke tequila bar, vase-shaped water fountain and dazzling light fixtures captivate all eyes. Even the leather-bound menus exhibit a surprising level of attention to detail.

Overall, the aesthetic differs from other Hispanic restaurants, with screens depicting landscape portraits of the Latin American countryside; although, it’s individuality is just beginning there.

“Mexican restaurants are usually very colorful,” said Ricardo Leveron, managing director since August 2019. “Everything here is earthy, white and brown, or is an object tied to the earth, like cacti and pottery. ”

The Lemus brothers immigrated to Chattanooga from Guatemala in the 1990s, and the design reflects their heritage.

“Benjamin [Lemus] spared no expense to translate the atmosphere he wanted, ”Leveron said. “The whole architecture of Mayan Kitchen is his own design, and his own hands helped build the tequila bar, the fixtures, the fountain in the middle and the menu as well.”

Leveron added that Chattanooga is predominantly Guatemalan and Central American. He said it is easier to run a business where other Guatemalans are located because they will experience the distinct culture and food.

Speaking of cuisine, Mayan Kitchen serves a variety of Latin American dishes, including Cuban, Colombian, Nicaraguan, and Guatemalan.

Leveron offered some of his own suggestions.

“You probably won’t find some of our signature dishes anywhere else,” Leveron said. “Pollo en Crema is Benjamin’s original recipe, and we just launched Baleadas, it’s a Honduran dish.”

Regarding the dish to order, Leveron suggested the Parillada Chapina.

“It’s like a big plate of fajitas for two, with different types of meat like longaniza (Guatemalan white sausage) or chorizo ​​(traditional Latin American sausage),” Leveron described in tantalizing detail.

If you’re not a meat fan, the menu also has a plethora of vegan and vegetarian options.

Food is only part of the company’s impact on the community, as several students work there.

“[Mayan Kitchen] has a lot of employees who are UTC students, ”Leveron said. “[We are] focused on teamwork – everyone gets along here, and we’re flexible to balance work hours with class time.

Leveron will even schedule its employees’ shifts in the restaurant, ready to step in and help its employees or customers if necessary.

Some students may not wish to leave campus, but that shouldn’t stop them from interacting with Hispanic Heritage Month.

UTC’s Multicultural Affairs office holds Fiesta Fridays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. throughout the month, which means students can attend an event until October 15. Their website described it as an informal get-together with music and small souvenir bags.

The library also participates in the celebrations, showcasing its National Hispanic Heritage Month-themed collection. Students can read books, available electronically, based on their cultural significance here, and they can also watch relevant videos here.

No matter how a student chooses to get involved in Hispanic Heritage Month, the possibilities are almost endless. However, they should not forget the fundamental principles underlying the festivities: to honor and respect a culture that has contributed so much to its neighborhoods, communities and nation.

For more information, visit the Mayan Kitchen website or Instagram – just prepare to whet your appetite!