Tamales with Molly

For some food businesses, COVID-related isolation has served to open owners’ minds to new possibilities. Molly Alvarado is one of those people.

She originally opened her business, Molly’s Tamales, in 2017, selling freshly rolled tamales and authentic Mexican street food at the Proctor District’s La Paloma artisan marketplace. She began to offer cooking classes at a local restaurant. When pandemic restrictions limited how she could conduct her classes, she turned to the world of Zoom.

She describes herself as a well-traveled chef but realizes now that she was also meant to be a teacher. Alvarado said that excitement about cooking began the day she first arrived in Jalisco, Guadalajara, to visit her new husband’s family ranch.

“I was led to an outdoor adobe-style kitchen, which changed my life. Grinding corn using a very old molcajete, I felt something in my blood — like a memory I wasn’t even aware of. It woke me in a way, and I wanted to learn more. I’m Indigenous myself, and I’ve always searched for history about the origins of food and community,” she said. “Over the past 25 years, I’ve traveled the world, visiting homes with makeshift kitchens and learning from mothers of 12, who had learned from their mothers. My recipes have a story behind them and are very meaningful to me.”

Those travels and the recipes they inspired are the subject of a new cookbook Alvarado plans to publish soon. She also works as a personal chef for local families and is creating meal kits to go.

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