Welcome to Chef Talks, a series in which our staff talks to the men and women who create, cook, and deliver some of the best food in the C-U and surrounding areas. This week we’re talking with Armando Sandoval of Maize Mexican Grill on Green street in Champaign. Read on to meet him, his restaurant and see some delicious photos of what you can expect from this cozy Mexican eatery.
Smile Politely: What is your name, restaurant, and position?
Armando Sandoval: My name is Armando Sandoval and I am the owner of Maize Mexican Grill.
SP: Tell us a little about yourself: where are you from, and how and why did you become a chef?
Sandoval: I was born in Mexico City and grew up in a little farm in the state of Guerrero Mexico. I began cooking at my families restaurant and grew up with the business.
SP: How would you describe your (or your restaurant’s) style?
Sandoval: The style of the restaurant is very simple and straightforward, we try to be as traditional as possible considering we are making Mexican food in the US.
SP: Do you source many of your ingredients from local Illinois farms?
Sandoval: We are in talks with several farmers about doing more local produce but because of the size of the restaurant it will be something that we would do in the future.
SP: What makes your restaurant special?
Sandoval: The ambiance, believe it or not, is contagious—It is so small that people who are adventurous and looking for great food squish into the tiny spot. We try to make everything handmade and on the spot so that people can enjoy fresh handmade tortillas with their food.
SP: What is your signature dish?
Sandoval: The Pork taco Mexica is my favorite! We start with a handmade tortilla, grilled cheese, marinated pork, onions, and cilantro. Simple but good!
SP: What is your favorite knife? What type do you use?
Sandoval: I don’t have a favorite knife, I am used to working with any of them.
SP: What is your favorite non-knife kitchen tool?
Sandoval: My iPhone! Jeje! I can place orders, check schedules, close out registers, check cameras, etc.
SP: What is your usual after-work drink?
Sandoval: Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Neat!
SP: If you only had one meal left in life, what would you eat?
Sandoval: Roasted pork! You can never go wrong with pork!
SP: What do you like to do on your days off?
Sandoval: Eat great food, while visiting places that inspire me or challenge me to make my restaurant better.
Maize Mexican Grill is located at 60 E Green St, Champaign, and is open daily from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.