If you think making great tacos is easy, Alex Stupak is here to set you straight. The former pastry wunderkind, who famously ditched the dessert station to open his two Empellón restaurants, has previously schooled us in the art of making flour tortillas. Here, he takes us deeper into the mind of new-school taquero, tracing the roots of his South of the Border fascination and explaining the complexities of cooking Mexican food.

In addition to the tortillas, there’s the protein that goes on top—in this case, gorgeous hunks of lamb barbacoa, which Stupak fell in love with while traveling in Oaxaca:


I had this on my first trip to Oaxaca in 2007, at the Central de Abastos market. The way they do it there is to basically take the whole animal—including the head and most of the organs—and rub it with adobo paste, put the whole thing in a vessel, cover it under avocado leaves, then wrap it in banana leaf. Then, they dig a pit and light a fire, and when the fire goes down to embers, they bury the lamb and let it steam underground for 24 hours. It’s served either in tacos or in consommé, with salsa borracha, and usually green olives too. This was when I was starting to become interested in Mexican cuisine, and I discovered a very unique way of cooking in Oaxaca. Since then, I’ve always had barbacoa on both of my menus.


Watch the video above to hear Stupak’s taco philosophy and see him work his magic with tortillas and lamb barbacoa.

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