On Saturday, Oct. 24 in a taqueria not so far, far away, a cooking group known as The Cocineros (the cooks) will prepare a feast of epic proportions- a three-course pop-up dinner inspired by the film saga “Star Wars.”
Co-founded by CIA Culinary alums Tatu Herrera and Ralph Gonzales in 2013, The Cocineros seeks to introduce new flavors and food experiences to local diners at an affordable price. The group has since expanded by several members, including Herrera’s cousin, David Arciniega, the Chef and Co-owner of Amaya’s Cocina, a family-run taqueria in the Eastside that opened last December.
The group members meet about once a month to create and host themed dinners using fresh produce and unique flavors. Amaya’s has become central to the group’s events, providing a well known location to serve “restaurant style” dinners.
The chefs chose a Star Wars themed dinner in anticipation of the film franchise’s reboot, slated for theaters this December. Herrera hopes that excitement for the film will translate to the dinner, and encourages diners to dress up as their favorite Star Wars characters.
“It took a while to actually create the dishes,” Herrera said of the group’s process. “People love these movies, and we didn’t want to make any nerds mad, so we had to go back and make sure we got everything right.”
Star Wars fans and hungry locals can look forward to “The Cocineros Strike Back,” which kicks off the dinner event with an amuse bouche, a “Yoda” snow pea sorbet with smoked salt. The following plate of Offal sausage with vegetable lattice on soubise is dedicated to the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back,” when Luke Skywalker and Han Solo climb inside tauntauns to survive the cold on Planet Hoth.
“This menu is very different than what we’re used to, we’d usually do a French menu,” Herrera said of the dinner. “But everyone has been crazy about the idea. It was difficult, but it’s been fun to create the dishes and match them to the characters.”
The second course allows guests to choose between three entrees: Darth Vader’s plate includes a beef shank with scarlet runner beans, poached egg and herb pistou; Princess Leia and Jabba the Hut’s dish features beef tongue with pumpkin confit, honey-cured egg yolk and winter citrus Lardo; A plate dedicated to Boba Fett and his fall into the pit of sarlacc includes a vegetable pasta with charred octopus and chorizo polonaise.
The restaurant-style dinner will allow attendees to eat inside or at the tables outside of Amaya’s. The event is BYOB, but diners can also purchase wine or beer on-site. The dinner will culminate with the third course, a dramatic “Death Star” dessert.
Group members are excited to be part of the growing food and dining culture in San Antonio.
“When we started this, there were like two pop-up chefs around,” Herrera said of San Antonio’s pop-up dinner culture. “Those guys were good, but we wanted to make an event for people who aren’t used to eating certain kinds of foods. They could come to a dinner and for $40 or $50, try a lot of different things.”
The Cocineros have used the pop-up dinners to hone their skills and provide new dining experiences for locals, but they hope to also give back to the San Antonio community through future themed dinners, and special projects, including a scholarship for CIA students and a community garden. The group has already begun raising funds to develop a “food forest,” which would be maintained by the City and provide foods to people in the area. According to Herrera, these culinary concepts are familiar to restaurants up North, but they’re new to San Antonio, especially for chefs on the Eastside.
“We know how it is to grow up poor,” Herrera said of the Cocineros. “But this is our town, and this is our chance to give something back. We’re trying to do something really different here.”
Click here to purchase tickets for “The Cocineros Strike Back,” on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The $50 dinner includes three courses, and will be hosted at Amaya’s Cocina, located at 1502 E Commerce.
*Top image: Promotional image for the Star Wars film series created by George Lucas.