Fifteen years ago, Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero opened La Querencia restaurant in Rosarito, Baja California. The restaurant prominently featured Baja ingredients as well as the flavors of his Spanish-descended ancestors and other influences on Baja (particularly Asian). Guerrero adopted the “BajaMed” trademark to describe the food.
It’s been said that some resent the term “BajaMed” precisely because it is Guerrero’s trademark. After all, Guerrero did not invent good Baja food; it was there before he was born. He did not single-handedly create the new Baja cuisine. It could certainly be argued — and frequently is — that Javier Plascencia, Benito Molina, Jair Tellez and others had as much to do with that as Guerrero.
But Guerrero clearly had a lot to do with it. The success of La Querencia — and Almazera and El Taller and La Esperanza — is undeniable and noteworthy in and of itself. And at the end of the day some of the success of the new cuisine of Baja lies precisely in the fact that the media and the public have a term — “BajaMed” — with which they can tag the growing, expanding, remarkable story. It is easier to occupy mental space when you can do so in a package with a ribbon around it.
Fifteen years later, of course, “BajaMed” remains very much Miguel Angel Guerrero’s trademark both on the plate and as a matter of the law that Guerrero once studied but never practiced. Fifteen years. After having obtained that law degree (as did his wife, Judith Medrano, whom he met in law school), and eschewed it for culinary school and a career behind the stove, and fifteen years after first opening La Querencia there is nothing wrong with a bit of a look back. It is an opportunity to take stock. More importantly, perhaps, it is an opportunity to celebrate.
And that is exactly what is happening tonight, April 14th, 2016 at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park.