Denisse Lina Chavez is no longer in the kitchen at El Atoradero, the Brooklyn cheap eats favorite that moved last year from its original spot in the Bronx.
Chavez left the Prospect Heights restaurant a few weeks ago in response to a health issue, the Mexican-born chef tells Eater. She said the hours were too long and she could no longer keep up. "I tried to find someone else to do the job," she said. "Each day I was doing less and less."
According to Chavez, her El Atoradero partners were selective in filling the vacancy, ultimately deciding not to hire a replacement. (The staff trained by Chavez has been running the kitchen.) Noah Arenstein, one of her partners, tells Eater she remains a partner in the restaurant, and the group is still actively working on a project next door at 706 Washington Avenue. Earlier this month Arenstein opened a Mexican restaurant on the Upper East Side without Chavez.
Meanwhile, Chavez said she has been taking calls from Manhattan restaurants looking to hire her. Chavez is still on the path to getting well, but hasn't ruled out cooking elsewhere. "I’m not going to stop cooking my food. I want to show everyone real Mexican food," she said.
Chavez was praised for the original El Atoradero in the Bronx, with many of the city's critics and bloggers flocking uptown for her tacos. It closed after a rent hike and successfully leapfrogged to Brooklyn late last year. Of the original, Robert Sietsema wrote, "Carnitas El Atoradero easily qualifies as one of the best, most innovative and interesting Mexican restaurants in town and you should get your ass up there as soon as possible." Stay tuned for updates on El Atoradero and Chavez's next move.