“Fusion” is an increasingly popular culinary concept—the exploration and pairing of various regional and ethnic cuisines for a new, often surprising flavor. In Anthony Lamas’ new cookbook, “Southern Heat—My Life Through Food”, the Louisville chef speaks on how he came to mix the Latin and Southern American flavors for which he became known in Louisville at his restaurant, Seviche.
Lamas was born in California, to parents of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. “Of course being Latino played a big part in the food that I ate and the flavors that I developed—bright, bold flavors, a bunch of citrus, marinating meat," he reflected. "We didn’t have a whole lot of money growing up; my mother raised us by herself for a while, so we learned to use cheaper cuts of meat, which are very popular now because they are more flavorful. But I learned how to marinate and tenderize them, which taught me how to flavor ingredients before they’re even cooked.”
In addition to being influenced by his cultural heritage, farm-life played a big part in his desire to become a chef. While Lamas was born in Los Angeles, he moved into the Central Valley, a more agricultural area, at the age of twelve and began work on a ranch. He eventually went on to join his local FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter.
“I traded in my skateboard for a pair of boots and Wranglers,” Lamas said. He connected with the land and developed an appreciation for the farm-to-table concept of cooking.
To pursue his dream of becoming a professional chef, Lamas trained with the San Diego Culinary Apprenticeship Program and worked with Jeff Tunks at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, allowing him to develop West Coast flavors and really hone his palate.
So how did a California boy end up in The Bluegrass State?
“I met a Kentucky girl and we came to visit here; and while it didn’t end up working out, I stayed here. I then fell in love with and married another Kentucky girl,” Lamas said.
As it happened, he also fell in love with Southern flavors.
“I didn’t know anything about grits, or Kentucky ham, and I sort of knew fried chicken to the extent that we had a KFC in California," he said. "But when I moved to Kentucky, I started as a sous chef at Lilly’s, and that’s where I was just absolutely blown away—grits, sorghum, Benedictine, pimento cheese. All those new flavors.”
And eventually the flavors of his life began to fuse—evident in Lamas’ cuisine at his restaurant, Seviche—and his upcoming cookbook will explore that journey.
“The working name is ‘Southern Heat: My Life Through Food’, and we like to say that we’re spicing up the South,” Lamas said. In it, Lamas will explore his culinary and professional development, as well as examining his passion for Latin and Southern food, and how they came to blend.
And the book—which will total in at over 200 pages, with 140 recipes and 120 photos—will be available for purchase in Fall of 2015 from Taunton Press.
In the meantime, be sure to visit Chef Lamas at Seviche, 1538 Bardstown Road.
Cover photo courtesy of Anthony Lamas