“To break bread with your family and friends is almost a religious experience,” says Ricardo Carrasco. The lawyer-turned-restaurateur is no stranger to the smoke of a grill and the shrill cries of sun-bathed children, or the taste of a cold beer and hot carne asada. “Monterrey is like that capital of the carne asada, every Sunday all the family gets together around the grill,” he says.
Monterrey is where Carrasco found his calling. It was there that the flavors of the region and the integrity of the ingredients drew him into a business he wasn’t expecting, where he decided to abandon his initial calling as a lawyer and follow his passion for restaurants and food.
Carrasco went on to open five restaurants in the Monterrey area, from a small local’s bar to a concept that focused on mezcal. “Monterrey is a city that holds the richest county in Latino America, and there was always competition for who has the best flavor, the newest trend and the coolest spot,” he says of his experiences opening restaurants in the city. “I loved it!”
Despite his ranging styles, there were always consistencies: “There was no need to say that it was non-GMO or made from scratch, because that was the only way to do it,” he notes. “Our concept was that of ‘comida artisanal,’ meaning everything is made by hand with no artificial flavors or additives, and without the use of machines.” Carrasco remembers visiting the locals, ranchos and fishermen’s wives around the region, tasting and learning the traditional and authentic flavors of Mexico.
These are concepts and values he’ll bring to his new Asheville restaurant, Polanco. Housed in a historic 1919 building downtown, the new authentic Mexican restaurant will appeal to all Asheville’s palates as “a cool place where all types of dietary needs can co-exist. We are dividing the kitchen in two with a vegan/vegetarian side and an omnivorous on the other,” he explains. “You can enjoy a great tomahawk with your vegan friend that can have an empanada made out of vegan cheese and flor de Calabaza.”
Carrasco has been involved in every step of Polanco’s creation, as he has been with all his endeavors. “To me, being a restauranteur is more than just being a chef or being an investor,” he says. “It’s about a drive and passion towards creating and implementing a concept. From the first building bricks, to ordering materials, aligning staff and projects, you become a bit of an architect, construction worker, etcetera.”
In the end, though, it all comes back to his passion for good food, good company, and good drinks, all things we love to enjoy in the form of a classic summertime cookout. “When you cook out in Mexico, 90% of the time you make it with charcoals and the tequila and beers are never missing,” Carrasco says of his cook-outs. “I think the simple fact that you have someone to enjoy some of the simplest pleasures of life like eating is what makes life worth it.”