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An interview with Maria's Cantina Head Chef Billy Jeffries

How long have you worked for Maria’s Cantina and what was your work experience prior to Maria’s?
I've been here with Maria’s Cantina since the beginning, before we even opened our doors to the public.

What is your favorite aspect of working at Maria’s Cantina?
My favorite part of the job is that I love what I do and get to touch people's lives every day.

As Head Chef, what is your approach to developing Maria’s menu items and specials?
Our approach with our food is to really give the guest a positive and uniquely Maria’s experience. We want to make people happy but also have them experience something they might not have had before.

Is there a Maria’s dish you are most proud of developing or preparing and why?
I am most proud of our chimichuri steak. It's the plate that most defines us and what we are trying to do with Latin fusion. With our own tomatillo steak sauce paired with an elote that you can normally only find at street vendors, it has subtle flavor combinations that are both Latin as well as American.

What Maria’s signature menu item do you most recommend?
The best dish to have here is Casa Carnitas. Right out of the pot, slow roasted in oil with oranges and garlic - nothing better.

You have represented Maria’s at various events in the last year, what are some of the things you enjoy most about engaging with the public?
Bringing Maria’s to you is one of my favorite things to do; creating small bites that not only wow the crowds, but also our competition is always a great feeling.   

Share with us some of your most memorable experiences with your sister company BlackPine Catering & Events.
My most memorable moments from my time with BlackPine are usually spent out at Windmill Vineyards at various weddings and special events.  Things like roasting whole hogs, serving plated dinners to 300 guests; working hard while pumping out great food and having fun the entire time.

What are some of your most memorable food experiences and how have they translated into your inspiration for Maria’s menus?
I have very distinct food memories. I remember the first time I had blue cheese at age 7, blown away! Fudge, same thing. I believe I was about 5 in my kindergarten class. Food has always been a huge part of my life even in high school. I think I was the only boy taking home economics that wasn't there just to meet girls but because we got to cook and eat!