Cafe Society

Serena Romeo, exec chef of Comida Cantina, on standing her ground, the mistreatment of animals and...a second Comida

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Favorite spice: Right now it's cumin. I love the way it smells and the way it complements the dishes that I've been working on.

One food you detest: I can't tolerate the bad "stuff" that gets put into our foods -- things like high-fructose corn syrup or the famous "pink slime." And it drives me crazy the way in which animals are mistreated -- the way they're caged, the way they're handled, their lack of mobility. That's not the way it's supposed to be. Here we make sure that our chickens are free-range and organic, and that the pigs are raised humanely, too.

One food you can't live without: Really good chocolate. A little piece every day makes life taste a bit sweeter.

Food trend you wish would disappear: I think food trends are a good thing. They allow us, as chefs and consumers, to get exposure to different techniques and products, and anything that gets people to experiment a little with food is positive. The good ones will sustain themselves; the others will come and go.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Respect. No temper tantrums. If you need to cool off, that's what the walk-in is for.

What's never in your kitchen? Attitude. Leave it in your car.

What's always in your kitchen? Clean hands, the best olive oil I can afford, a good wooden spoon, music, humor, humility and, depending on the time of day, a nice glass of red wine. And I always wear a fun apron but never kitchen wear -- that's not my thing. I've been known to cook in a skirt.

Favorite dish on your menu: I love our Tender Belly Pork taco and the pineapple habanero salsa. It makes my mouth water. I also really enjoy the "Situation" taco and the chorizo quesadilla; the pickled onions really add an unusual bite to it.

Biggest menu bomb: The menu here is pretty solid. Rayme Rossello, who owns Comida, really created something that makes it easy to be successful. We just started brunch here, which was a group effort, and the dishes are not only unusual, but a treat for the tastebuds. I'm sure my bomb will come one day. Let's just hope it's not a Hiroshima type of experience.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson