Saltwater Is In His Veins

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There can be little doubt Carlos Falcon is one of the hottest chefs in Kansas City. His Kansas City, Kansas restaurant, Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos, has garnered rave reviews while amassing a loyal, almost fanatical, following.

Story by Dave Eckert

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Jarocho and Carlos Falcon have succeeded where most would have failed-in an out of the way location with a restaurant housed in a building better suited to a Tacqueria than a restaurant serving the freshest, most interesting selection of seafood in several states. Part of the success has to be credited to that fresh seafood and what Falcon does with it on a nightly basis. I’ve only ordered off the menu once as his daily specials are not to be missed. The other part of Jarocho’s meteoric rise, a big part in my opinion, is Falcon. He is as engaging as he is talented, and his smile and winning personality are the perfect accompaniment to Jarocho’s cuisine and family-friendly atmosphere.

Falcon’s fame has come at a price. He told me recently that he and his wife, Sayaka (a lovely and talented woman in her own right), can no longer go out to dinner without someone, often multiple people, stopping by their table to offer a compliment or pose a question. With plans for a second Jarocho (due to open at the end of January in south Kansas City), and dreams of a third restaurant downtown, Falcon’s life is going to get even more hectic and his free time scarcer. I had the chance to sit down with Sayaka and Carlos at Jarocho for a chat about their good fortune, his great food, and the precious time he shares at home with Sayaka and their son, Issey.

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I first wanted to know what and how often a great chef cooks at home? Sayaka laughed when I asked the question, and Carlos summed it up in one word – improvise. “We improvise and we just go with the flow,” Falcon said.

There are no fancy meals at the Falcon household. Actually, because of the long, late night hours spent “cooking for the people” at Jarocho, Sayaka says by the time Carlos gets home she’s asleep, so the cooking most often falls to her. And, when Carlos does prepare a meal at home, it’s usually pretty basic stuff. “It’s probably like two times a month that I cook (at home). Before, it used to be every other day, but I’m a lot busier these days,” Falcon shared. “We don’t even keep that much stuff. So what he does, is put something together with whatever he can grab from the fridge and the pantry,” Sayaka added.

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That often means saltines, refried beans, rice, and eggs. “A lot of people think that being a chef all we eat is caviar and truffles and all we drink is Champagne. It’s not like that. For me, comfort food is like scrambled eggs, a couple tortillas, a scoop of refried beans, and I’m good to go. I think chefs need to feed their souls more than their stomachs, and that feeds my soul,” Falcon told me.

As for Issey, both Carlos and Sayaka say they have no plans to guide him into the restaurant business, but they want him to know that it’s there for him if he chooses, and they’d love for him to share the passion Carlos has for food and for his beloved Jarocho. The couple says he’s already showing the signs of a culinarian. “He eats everything we make. Sushi. Everything. We don’t even have baby food,” Sayaka said. “As a chef, that’s a dream come true,” Falcon chimed in. “I would love for him to love food the way that I do. But, for me, the most important thing is the family.”

Family. It comes through in everything Carlos and Sayaka do at Jarocho. No matter how big or busy he gets, I hope that never changes.


Beer Mussels

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, washed, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 small sweet onion, skin removed and finely minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, skins removed and finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups seafood stock
  • 1 (12-oz.) bottle of your favorite beer
  • 1 (2-lb.) parcel fresh mussels, cleaned/beards removed
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 rustic loaf French or Italian bread, optional for dipping
  • In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, melt butter over high heat on stovetop. Add jalapeno, onion and garlic to pot and season with salt and pepper. Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Pour seafood stock and beer into pot and bring to a boil. Add mussels to pot, making sure to discard any opened shellfish before cooking. Immediately put lid tightly on pot and boil for 2 minutes, or until mussels have opened. (If a mussel has not opened after boiling for the allotted time, discard it.)
  • Ladle mussels and broth into individual serving dishes. Sprinkle cilantro over top of each bowl and serve with bread for dipping into broth, if desired.

Shrimp Cucaracha Recipe

  • 8 oz whole shrimp
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp diced onions
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Jarocho sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
  • Deep fry whole shrimp for 30 seconds, then toss the shrimp in a pan with the rest of the ingredients except for the hot sauce for two minutes on high heat. Add the hot sauce enough to coat the shrimp. Enjoy.

Tuna Ceviche Recipe

  • 1 lb Fresh Tuna
  • 1/4 Diced Onions
  • 1/2 Bunch of Cilantro
  • 1/2 Diced Jalapeno
  • 3 Limes Juiced
  • Salt to liking
  • Generous amount of Olive Oil
  • Cut the tuna in half an inch cubes, toss with the rest of the ingredients and serve chilled. Enjoy with chips or saltine crackers.

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