We visited with Chef/Co-owner Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo to find out who she is and what inspires her to create some of the most unique flavors you’ll find on Austin’s infamous Rainey Street.
Where does your passion for sourcing high quality or sustainable food stem from?
I come from Mexico where we have really great ingredients – very fresh, very natural. It’s the passion for high quality food that also tastes good. If you have the highest quality mixed with the right seasonings and you know how to cook, then the results are obviously going to be great.
What kind of people come to dine at El Naranjo?
We have very diverse kind of people – a lot of locals, a lot of outsiders who come to visit Austin – but mostly people who really care for what they eat. People who enjoy good flavors, good balance, but also quality food. This is why we think Niman Ranch makes a perfect pairing: having good food, very flavorful, and perfect.
Why do you choose Niman Ranch meats?
We started to hear about the flavor and quality, then found that it’s a great product. We like the idea that the animals are raised humanely, that you keep it natural, and the work you do for your farmers. It just really makes sense for us. I think many customers know about the quality and flavor – not only that it’s humanely raised, but it just really tastes great.
How do you participate in your local community?
We do a lot of fundraising events. Whenever we’re asked to give in any way, we will. I help out as a member of the Les Dames D’Escoffier – a group of women leaders in the food and beverage industry, internationally – and have a radio show, Platicando y Cocinando. Through this, I help the Mexican community, Hispanic community, improve on their health and lifestyle.
Have you seen any recognition for these efforts?
I received the Ohtli Award, which is the most important recognition that the Mexican government gives to citizens who live outside Mexico, because of the important work I’ve done representing Mexico and its economy, and also for helping the Hispanic community to eat healthier and improve their lifestyles. I was also named the Hispanic Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014 from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in the Austin area. The more you can give or cooperate and help others, the better!