From September 15 to October 15, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements in the United States. From small towns to big cities like Los Angeles, the impact of Hispanic culture and community can be seen, heard, and tasted all around us. In fact, we’re willing to bet that within the past week, food you’ve eaten, a song you listened to, or a show you’ve watched has in some way been inspired by Latin roots.
“It’s truly all around us. Most of the top tracks in pop music today are by artists like Bad Bunny, Karol G, and new sounds inspired by Mexican musicians like Grupo Frontera,” exclaims Angel “AROCK” Castillo, entrepreneur and CEO/founder of BPM Music.
When AROCK first met award-winning, San Diego-based chef and culinary entrepreneur, Claudette Zepeda, he immediately felt they were kindred spirits in their passion for fueling creativity in two very different spaces – the music industry and the culinary arts – both also forms of art important to Hispanic culture. While AROCK has found his calling in the music space, Zepeda fills her cup quite literally with good food and drinks. Both have worked hard to become successful key players in their creative industries.
“Food for me has always been a creative conduit. It’s very freeing to work magic through flavors, incorporate new techniques, add textures, and share stories about my life, Mexican culture, and history. The proof of human connection over thousands of years on a plate. Art is defined; producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power, that’s how I approach my craft.” Zepeda explains.
But what AROCK and Zepeda also share is being self-proclaimed “border kids,” growing up on the line between San Diego and Tijuana just minutes from the Mexican/American border. While both find themselves often pulling inspiration from their colorful upbringings, they also relate to one another when it comes to today’s competitive landscapes in the food and music industries.
“I think what Claudette and I have in common most is that even though this journey wasn’t always the easiest road to take, our passion and determination for the end result kept us going,” said AROCK.
Zepeda is known for her fearless style and bold approach to regional Mexican cuisine. With over 20 years of experience working in restaurant kitchens, plus her extensive travels around the world and throughout Mexico, her food creations incorporate a vast knowledge of indigenous ingredients and cross-cultural expressions of cuisine.
She once told Forbes, “My childhood was spent [between] markets, molinos, and my aunt’s restaurant in Mexico or my parents’ several restaurant attempts in Tijuana and San Diego,” explains Zepeda.
As of late, Zepeda is a celebrity chef, making a household name for herself on “Top Chef.” But what some would say is her biggest project to date is VAGA, her restaurant and bar perched on a coastal bluff in Encinitas, California, which opened just shy of three years ago.
“‘Vaga’ is an affectionate nickname I’ve had since I was a child, my family’s lovingly teasing way of acknowledging my wanderlust. My abue (grandmother), who shared my affinity for adventure, always began our phone calls with “Dónde andas? Andas de vaga?” (“Where are you now? Being a wanderer?), to which I would laugh and confirm “Siempre” (“Always”),” said Zepeda.
AROCK’s story rings very much the same, with big dreams from small beginnings. At only 12 years old, he remembers knowing that the DJ culture and lifestyle would be a big part of his life, after watching a DJ at his school dance rock the crowd and control the vibe of the room.
After years of working as a professional radio DJ, he realized there was a need for a platform that could provide the music DJs need, like various versions, clean, dirty, edits, and remixes. This idea would become what we know today as BPM Supreme, the most popular music service among DJs around the world.
“Music feeds the soul the same way food feeds the body,” AROCK continues. “The common denominator between the two is that both are essential to life – especially to a fulfilled life. Music and food both bring people together and provide joy. Especially within the Latin culture, (and many other cultures), families center their gatherings all around music, cooking, and eating together at the table.”
“Music and food are both elements of life that allow your creativity to flow, and that nourish the mind, body, and soul,” Zepeda concludes.
So, the next time you’re feeling like your inspiration is running low, hop into the kitchen, queue up your favorite playlist, and get things cookin’.