Pico Rivera chef actively involved in local community

Chef Marco Zapien has been involved in his community for years and is not slowing down any time soon. He is currently touring seven Southern California libraries performing cooking demonstrations, and he continues to reach out to aspiring chefs, working closely with high school culinary programs.

The executive chef and co-owner of Zapien’s Salsa Grill & Taqueria demonstrates how to make the red salsa he serves at his restaurant, cilantro salad and dressing, chili verde and bread pudding at each of his library stops. Audience members even get a free plate of the freshly made food. The tour began Thursday, March 6 in South Gate at Hollydale Library and will end Saturday, May 24 at Leland R. Weaver Library, also in South Gate.

On Wednesday, March 19, students from Bell Gardens High School will get the opportunity to see Chef MZ at work in his restaurant. About 30 students will visit from the school’s Culinary and Hospitality Occupations Pathway (CHOP) and the Regional Occupations Program (ROP).

Chef MZ has been planning and hosting food demonstrations for the last three years—his first Super Bowl themed class was held in January 2011. Since then he has hosted over 20 classes, with each having a distinct menu fitting a theme such as holiday dining and summer entertaining.

The number of registrants has steadily grown to average 50 to 60 participants per show. There are even some returners who can’t get enough.

Since the cooking demonstrations began, Chef MZ has been connecting with people who want to entertain on their own terms, letting them in on his creative menu ideas, seasoning secrets and shortcuts in the kitchen.

Food lovers have flocked to his restaurant for more than 18 years. Some claim the restaurant has the best carnitas or enchiladas, while others argue it’s the mole or menudo. Whatever the case, it’s gained a following.

Zapien’s Salsa Grill was founded in 1994 and is known for its authentic Mexican flavors, including menudo, pozole and mole. Still located at its original address in Pico Rivera, Zapien’s is an established part of the local community.

In October 2013, The Grill was named “Best Mexican in the L.A. area” for the seventh straight year by Los Angeles Hot List voters.

Chef MZ is also the owner of Black Tie & Blue Jeans Creative Catering and is a corporate chef for Melissa’s World Variety Produce.

Zapien’s Salsa Grill is located at 6702 Rosemead Blvd in Pico Rivera. For more information, visit thesalsagrill.com.