Jonathan Zaragoza on leaving Masa Azul: 'Just gonna chill.' | Bleader

Jonathan Zaragoza on leaving Masa Azul: 'Just gonna chill.'

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Jonathan Goatboy Zaragoza

When Logan Square's Masa Azul opened a little over three years ago, I didn't care much for the food, but I loved bartender Jenny Kessler's cocktails and owner Jason Lerner's commitment to agave spirits. A little over a year later things came into balance when Lerner brought on Jonathan Zaragoza, who completely reversed a kitchen that was stuck in a stale Euro-Mexican rut in favor of a modern street food and small plates MO much more compatible with a program centered on tequila and mezcal. Now, after two long years of hard work, the 24-year-old Zaragoza is ready for break: "I've been working way too much and need to enjoy my life a bit." He hasn't figured out what he's doing next, but hasn't ruled out returning to the family business—the great Birrieria Zaragoza—for a spell before making a move.

"This is part of his growth as a young chef and I support him," says Lerner. "It's amazing to me that he's not even 25 years old yet. He has long, amazing career ahead of him. He came in when we were one year old, and it's been great to grow together."

Lerner has feelers out for a replacement, and Zaragoza says he'll help with the transition. "We're looking to continue to focus on the street-food aspect—delicious tacos and tortas," says Lerner. "Guadalajara and Mexico City food that is honest and not fussy."

As far as the bar program goes, Kessler moved on a while ago. In April, Lerner brought Brian Adee up from New Orleans. Adee has since boosted the spirits list—particularly with regard to mezcal—and totally revamped the cocktail menu, introducing some very intriguing potions, like a negroni built on mezcal and Madeira, and a piña colada with tequila, mezcal, and pisco.

You still have time to sip on those while eating Zaragoza's food though—his last service is September 15.

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