Mastermind of Zia Taqueria passionate about the joys of Mexican food
Kevin Grant has been interested in owning his own restaurant since he was a little kid.
He thought it important to start from the bottom and learn every position inside a restaurant. He attended the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management at the University of Houston, graduating in 2003.
With so many excellent Mexican restaurants in Texas, Kevin found Charleston and thought it the perfect place to start Zia Taqueria.
Q: What's your first food memory?
A: My first food memory was eating Thanksgiving dinners at my uncle's Italian restaurant, Chenare, in Brian, Texas. It was fun to be in the restaurant with my family when it was closed for the holiday. I always snuck into the kitchen to steal croutons; I don't think anyone ever knew it.
Q: What do you cook at home?
A: Breakfast. Huevos a la Mexicana. Make a quick roasted tomato salsa on top of scrambled or fried eggs, make up a batch of refried beans and clean it off the plate with warm buttered tortillas.
Q: What mistakes do you see home cooks make?
A: I feel it is always good to follow a recipe as closely as possible, at least the first time you make it. Then you can redesign the dish to your particular likes and dislikes.
Q: What's your favorite cookbook?
A: Rick Bayless' "Mexico One Plate at a Time" is probably my all-time favorite. I've learned more about Mexican food from this book than probably any other.
Q: What's your signature dish?
A: My signature dish has to be the nachos here at Zia Taqueria. The individual tostada loaded perfectly with refried black beans, spicy carne asada and melted cheese is the simplest, most mouthwatering item on the menu. No matter how many times I've seen a fresh plate come out of the kitchen, I always think to myself how gorgeous they are.
Q: What made you decide to become a chef?
A: I love to cook, and I really enjoy testing recipes. I am always attempting to make them a little better.
Q: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment as a chef?
A: My greatest accomplishment is being able to teach people to appreciate what really good Mexican food is all about. The Southeast is lacking behind many parts of the country in quality Mexican food. I'm just happy to get to showcase the goods from south of the border.
Q: Who is your favorite chef outside of Charleston?
A: Miguel Ravago from Fonda San Miguel in Austin, Texas. He was doing regional Mexican cuisine in Austin 30 years before its widespread popularity.
Q: Who is your favorite Charleston chef?
A: I can't get enough of The Glass Onion (in West Ashley). Chris Stewart, Charles Vincent and Sarah O'Kelley are amazing; everything they do is just great.
If you go
What: Zia Taqueria.
Where: 1956A Maybank Highway.
Web Site: http://ziataco.com.