Mérida-born chef hasn’t forgotten his roots in St. Louis

Mérida native Alex Henry is in charge of an acclaimed restaurant in St. Louis. Photo: Riverfront Times
Mérida native Alex Henry is in charge of an acclaimed restaurant in St. Louis. Photo: Riverfront Times

St. Louis, Mo. — Alex Henry’s menu is a love song to Mérida, where he was born, but left when he was still a child.

Now in St. Louis, the 28-year-old chef has taken the helm at Nixta, a popular Botanical Heights restaurant. Reading the new menu, it’s obvious that Henry has a vivid recollection of Yucatán’s culinary traditions.

His Missourian customers may be surprised to find turkey in their tamales. Castacan — fried pork bellies that make for great tacos at Wayan’e — are on his menu as well. So is cochinita pibil, sikil pak and pulpo.

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“I remember hanging out with my grandmother in her kitchen in Mérida,” Henry told the Riverfront Times. “She was a really good traditional cook. Also, when we would go out to eat, there was always some part of the kitchen that was visible — maybe it was women making tamales on the streets outside. Things like that just crept into my head and made me realize how much I loved food and cooking.”

Cochinita pibil for brunch at Nixta in St. Louis. Photo: Courtesy

Every year, he and his family would leave Missouri for summers in Mexico. That obviously helped cement his commitment to the cuisine of Mexico when he put his own stamp on the restaurant.

“Even though my name is Alex Henry, I am from Yucatán, Mexico, so I might know a little bit about the food I am trying to create,” says the young chef.

Bon Appetit magazine called Nixta one of the country’s top 10 new restaurants of 2017.

Read his interview in the Riverfront Times.

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