Canton’s Ignacio Viveros, who was born in Mexico and came to Georgia by way of California in 1984, has never lost touch with his roots.

As the owner of Tecali Grille, 132 Riverstone Parkway, Canton, Viveros has made sure for the past 13 years that customers have eaten food that’s as authentic as his family’s kitchen when he was growing up.

Viveros said one of his main teachers when learning to cook was his mother. After coming to the United States, he said he missed the home cooking he enjoyed in Mexico, so learning her recipes was important.

“I had to learn her recipes,” he said. “I had to learn to cook to enjoy some good meals.”

Viveros also described how he learned more about cooking, including the many various cuts of meat, while working in a butcher shop in Mexico before coming to the United States.

“I’ve worked for the food industry virtually all of my life,” Viveros said. “I love to eat, and I love to cook.”

He added that, not only did he love to cook for himself, but also loved cooking for his friends at parties and other big events. With his friends loving his cooking just as much as he did, Viveros said they helped him open Tecali Grille in 1996.

“When you come to this country, you start from the bottom and you work your way up,” Viveros said. “The dream is be able to open your own restaurant.”

Another interesting fact about Viveros and Tecali Grille is the tie they share to the Atlanta Braves. Along with the location in Canton, Viveros said he also had a location open for some time in the Towne Lake community. While it was still open, one of Viveros’ employees at the Towne Lake restaurant was none other than Braves outfielder Nick Markakis.

“He was a great kid,” Viveros said. “He and his family were very respectful.”

With Markakis having become an outstanding major league player, Viveros said he felt great to see Markakis having the success he has had in professional baseball, while also feeling a sense of both pride and humbleness to have had the opportunity to work with him.

When describing Mexican food, Viveros said there is a great deal of variety in cuisine throughout the country, differing from region to region, with some dishes being fairly mild, while some are spicier. For example, tropical fruits play a relatively larger role in dishes from the south of Mexico, while the northern portions of the country are more oriented toward beef and other similar ingredients, and both vary from what can be found in Mexico City. Viveros said, as visitors make their way around the streets of Mexico City, they may find hundreds of different styles of tacos being prepared and enjoyed. At the same time, he said there are some similarities throughout the country, including a relatively heavy usage of vegetables, especially corn.

With so many different options on the menu at Tecali Grille, Viveros said there are a number of dishes that have proven to be highly popular among guests. These include chiles poblano, where two poblano peppers are stuffed with cheese, fried in egg batter and then topped with a special relleno sauce; sombrero salad, where lettuce, grilled chicken, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and tostada dressing are mixed together in a tortilla shell; parrillada poblana, with grilled chicken, steak, chorizo sausage, carnitas, shrimp and mushrooms are mixed together and served with tortillas, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, rice and refried beans; los cuates (the twins), a pair of burritos where one is filled with chicken and topped with tomatillo sauce, while the other contains beef and topped with enchilada sauce; and steak and chicken fajitas.

No matter what a customer may order, Viveros said he and his staff make sure everything they serve is as fresh as possible. When purchasing ingredients, Viveros said he regularly visits farmers markets throughout the Atlanta area, especially one near the Atlanta airport. In the kitchen, Viveros and his employees can be found cutting up fresh onions, tomatoes and cilantro to make salsa, while the various meats used in Tecali’s dishes are marinated by restaurant employees as well. This dedication to using the freshest ingredients and preparing everything on site, rather than using pre-blended mixes, gives every item on Tecali Grille’s menu a homemade taste, which Viveros said his guests love and enjoy.

“All of our guests are like family to us,” Viveros said. “We serve them good, fresh Mexican food in a friendly way.”

Not only does Tecali Grille serve up the freshest food it can, but also prepares specialty drinks. In addition to traditional beverages found at any restaurant, such as Coca-Cola and iced tea, the menu includes a handful of drinks labeled “Agua Frescas.” While this term translates to “fresh water,” these drinks are far much more than just water. One of these beverages, “Agua de Horchata,” is prepared using condensed milk, evaporated milk, fresh milk, rice, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. “Agua de Jamaica” uses hibiscus flowers and is brewed in a process relatively similar to brewing tea, while “Agua de Tamarindo” requires tamarind pods in its preparation.

Overall, Viveros said he enjoyed being able to share his food and his cooking with others, sharing the food and culture of Mexico with every guest who sits down to enjoy all the many kinds of food Tecali Grille has to offer.

Recipe — Caldo de Pollo

One of Viveros’s favorite recipes, and something he always enjoyed when his mother would make it, he described Caldo de Pollo (chicken soup, although it could also possibly be classified as a stew) as being able to make a hearty meal that can be enjoyed any time, in any weather.

Ingredients:

• 2 quarts (64 fluid ounces) water

• 1 tablespoon salt

• 1 sprig fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dry mint

• 4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs

• 2 medium carrots, sliced

• 1 poblano pepper, diced into ½ inch pieces

• 2 chayote, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces

• 1 medium onion, diced into ½ inch pieces

• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

• 2 zucchini, cut into ½ inch chunks

• 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

• 1 avocado, diced

• 2 limes, sliced

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, add the salt, mint, chicken, carrots, poblano pepper, chayote, onion, and garlic, and cook them over medium heat for 30 minutes. Then, add the zucchini and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Garnish with the chopped cilantro, sliced limes and diced avocado.

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