Melbourne business owner Gerardo Lopez will receive the Mexican Federal Government’s award for Outstanding Mexican Abroad. The Mexican Ambassador will present Lopez with the award at the embassy in Canberra on Thursday 13 September.
Lopez is the first Mexican-Australian recipient of the honour, which recognises the Mexicans living abroad who have made a valuable contribution to sharing Mexican culture in their adopted countries.
After moving to Australia in 2009, Lopez noticed an increasing interest in Mexican cuisine but recognised a gap in the market — access to authentic corn tortillas made using the ancient nixtamal technique was limited. Five years after opening La Tortilleria with co-founder Diana Hull, Lopez is proud of what the business has achieved; from a neighbourhood Mexican bakery La Tortilleria has become one of the leading suppliers of authentic corn tortillas throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific.
“It means a lot to me to see how much Australians love our tortillas,” says Lopez. “We are bringing the taste of the villages to Mexico into the kitchens of Australian families.
“Our dream of changing the face of Mexican food in Australia has directly impacted the lives of many Mexicans in Australian — those who miss home and now can have a tortilla that tastes like Mexico — and this is a recognition of the journey we have gone through to make it happen,” Lopez told Hospitality.
“This is a journey that started with an idea of bringing authentic Mexican food to Australia and today the Mexican Government is recognising the contribution La Tortilleria has made to enhance the name of Mexico and its gastronomy. More than a recognition it is a confirmation that we are on the right path and have a responsibility to continue bringing this change.
“The contributions by restaurants, Mexican produce suppliers, and Mexicans living in Australia has been pivotal to generate a change in the perception of Mexican Food in Australia. There is a lot of work to be done but we all agree that the change is palpable and we are heading in the right direction. The fact that Australian consumers are starting to acknowledge the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex is a great start that will continue to drive the change. We would like to see Mexican food represented correctly, Tex-Mex has its own history and origins, but it is not what we Mexicans eat. Mexican food was declared by UNESCO in 2010 Intangible Heritage recognition to their importance to Mexican culture and people and also its contribution to cuisines around the world.”
The recognition comes just in time for Mexican Independence day, celebrated on 16 September, with La Tortilleria’s restaurant putting on a fiesta with music, traditional street tacos and tequila specials.
“We’ve seen a surge in tortilla orders from Mexican restaurants across the country this week,” says Lopez. “Everyone is getting ready to celebrate.”