Due to its geographical proximity and its large number of immigrants to the United States, Mexico was long considered synonymous with all things Latin, including cuisine. In recent years, however, the focus on honoring diversity and cultural heritage has raised awareness of the multifaceted nature of Latin America, spurring appreciation for the culinary achievements of nations other than Mexico. “It feels fair to say that Millennials have played an essential part in popularizing Latin-style cuisine,” comments seasoned restaurateur — Dustin Knox, co-owner of Portland, OR-based street food establishment Chicken and Guns. “Open-minded, curious, and defiant of stereotypes, their generation has driven many positive changes in our society, including an appreciation of the contributions made by immigrant communities in all spheres of life. There is also a purely quantitative factor behind the rising popularity of Latin cuisines: according to the US Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the United States grew by 20% from 2010 to 2020, making this the country’s second-largest racial or ethnic group.”
There is no doubt that Mexican food laid the foundation for the currently growing popularity of Latin cuisines, not least because it became an everyday staple, losing its status as an exotic novelty in the process, Dustin Knox says. Tacos, burritos, and nachos are now familiar menu options in virtually all restaurants and fast-food chains, with hardly any American considering them ethnic food. Nevertheless, these Mexican staples have created an appetite for similar offerings, opening business opportunities for chefs and restauranteurs from Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Brazil, and many other countries from South America and the Caribbean. The public’s desire for new dishes and flavors has given a major boost to the ethnic casual and fine dining scenes, which has, in turn, expanded and improved the supply chain for ingredients and spices used in Latin cuisines.
Dustin Knox himself is a beneficiary of this growing appreciation for Latino food, with Chicken and Guns opting for a simple menu that celebrates the rich tastes of Central America and the Caribbean. The food cart specializes in chicken grilled on an open fire over mesquite and white oak, a technique the restaurateur and his business partner witnessed on their travels across the region. They use various spices from Venezuela and the Caribbean to achieve the unique taste, serving the chicken with crispy potatoes and Peruvian aji sauce or green salad and chimichurri. In one interview, Dustin Knox referred to the fare of Chicken and Guns as a “mishmash of Latin styles,” and this choice has led to his food cart becoming one of the most popular places for Portland’s lovers of Latino flavors.
A craftsman by trade, Dustin Knox opted for a career path that ultimately made him a legendary figure in the Portland, OR food cart scene. With his first venture, Perierra Creperie, he helped establish the concept of the patio-style cart pod, which has since become a distinctive characteristic of the local street food landscape. In 2015, Dustin Knox partnered with Todd Radcliffe for the launch of Chicken and Guns – a project inspired by the pair’s frequent trips to Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Operating out of the Cartopia pod in Southeast Portland, the outdoor eatery has built a fervently loyal customer base with its wood-grilled chicken and “guns” – crispy potatoes with lemon and sea salt, topped with pickled onions and Peruvian aji sauce.
Dustin Knox – Co-Owner of Portland’s Chicken and Guns: http://dustinknoxnews.com
Dustin Knox (@schoolofthehardknox) – Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/schoolofthehardknox
Dustin Knox Launches New Food Cart Called Chicken & Guns: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/701787554418427253/
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