In 2021, Tanea Maldonado left her home state of California to join Public Records as our night porter. Eager to work with our team and under the banner of our principals, she proved her dedication and passion and quickly stepped up to line as sous chef. It was an obvious decision to promote her to Head Chef when were in need and we’re thrilled to see where she takes us as her bold cuisine takes the center stage.
To welcome and celebrate her, we spoke with her about her culinary genesis and what we can expect from her as she settles in. Hit play on her Spotify playlist and read her story below.
Born and raised in the border town of Tijuana, Maldonado spent her youth between there and El Paso, TX, subconsciously experiencing the sundry of flavors that results from such geo socio convergences. As the story goes with so many of the great chefs, it was the matriarchs of the family who laid the foundation of her culinary ambitions. Her grandmother and mother alike ruled the kitchen, preparing traditional Mexican dishes with an inherited passion that would be passed down. From an early age, she’d sit and observe her grandmother in the kitchen, grinding spices for her mole, roasting off peppers and corn for salsas, and cooking rice to masterful perfection. It was that rice that she was first taught to cook, and that meditative process that informs her style today, which is one that harks to the care and labors of old work cooking while experimenting with technique and flavor fusions.
Originally following in the footsteps of her father, favoring financial practicality over intrinsic desire, Maldonado embarked on a career in engineering. Luckily, she quickly diverted from that career path and enrolled in culinary school, diving headfirst into her lifelong dream.
Upon graduation from culinary school she took a garde manger station position at a Mediterranean restaurant in Southern California. While gaining valuable industry experience in a fast-paced kitchen, as she meditated over the repetitious rhythms of the role Maldonado’s culinary imaginings began to take shape in her mind. She knew she wanted to incorporate the traditional flavors of her heritage, with a particular highlight on the spicy and sour notes, into creative, unforgettable vegan dishes and to create plant-based dishes that would leave people dubious of their vegan validity.
When a friend mentioned an opening in Public Records’ kitchen, she jumped at the chance to join our innovative team and a kitchen pushing the boundaries of plant-based cuisine. Beginning in the humble yet essential role of night porter, Maldonado continued studying and dreaming, and quickly joined the line as sous chef. Alongside our previous head chef, Jason Woods, she created one of PR’s most loved dishes, the jackfruit taco.
When Woods moved on from the in kitchen role, it was a no brainer to promote Maldonado to the position of Head Chef. Now, under her charge, the kitchen is poised to help bring her ideations to life and push our boundaries even further. Utilizing creative vegan techniques, she has designed a new menu that is at once radically complex and comfortingly familiar. Drawing heavily on her memories and the food of her upbringing, she puts bold Latin flavors at the center of her dishes with support from cross-regional profiles. We welcome plates like her tostado mole, whose sauce is the result of a 7-hour cooking process exemplifying her skill and heart, and oyster mushroom enchilado tacos, a concept she’s been ruminating on for years and is to-date, her favorite dish she’s ever made.
Public Records is thrilled to have Maldonado helming the kitchen and we look forward to supporting (and consuming) her culinary endeavors. As she settles in we hope she can continue to explore inspiring flavor combinations and playful interpretations of the classics using the highest quality plant-based ingredients.