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Downtown Arlington Chef Spotlight: Getting to Know the Brilliant Minds Behind Your Favorite Cuisines

Chefs may live in the back of the house, but they remain in the front of our hearts as we carry the memories of these one-of-a-kind meals forever.

Downtown Arlington is home to a variety of cuisines from all over the world. The beauty of exploring the heart of Arlington is being able to hop between restaurants, discover various cuisines, and experience the love language of professional, world-renowned chefs.

Get to know the chefs of Downtown Arlington as they discuss what led them to share their favorite cuisines and go from the back of the house to the front of our hearts.

“Be Naturally Curious.” – Sitting Down with Chef Wendy Felix, Cafe Americana

When the plans finally make it out the group chat, you’re left with the delicious culinary journey of Cafe Americana. Cafe Americana is the brainchild of a collective of friends from the United States, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Jamaica, Barbados, and Morocco, who shared a common love for food, craft cocktails and wines.

Cafe Americana Chef de Cuisine Wendy Felix’s culinary career began as an employee at a restaurant in the Dominican Republic named “Banco Popular” and continued as she traveled across the world to Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and eventually Arlington, the American Dream City. Opening this restaurant with her friends has been a dream come true.

“We are doing what we have been working all our lives to do,” said Chef Wendy. “We truly are a family, and we are living out our dreams by opening a restaurant that embraces our international heritage in this diverse city.”

This love for the craft shines through in every dish on their menu, from the tapas to the empanadas to the croquetas de pollo to Wendy’s coconut cake, a shareable, delicate cake with a cream cheese filling, burnt meringue, toasted coconut, and a dark rum pineapple sauce that will wow guests. “To see people smiling and nodding while they’re eating is like a trophy for a chef,” said Chef Wendy. “We hope that as the word gets out about Cafe Americana and our one-of-a-kind menu that has globally inspired dishes it will cause students, downtown employees, city staff, and visitors alike to say, ‘Meet me at Americana!’”

Cafe Americana, from left to right: Small plates and shareables for friends and family, Texas Oil Money, Paella

“Stay Hungry.” – A Word from Executive Chef David Pacheco, Restaurant506

One perk of growing up in California with a professional chef as a father is free doggy bags filled with shrimp and fries. Another? Discovering your life’s true calling early on in life. Each time Restaurant506 Executive Chef David Pacheco’s father would bring home leftovers from the steak house, David would get a glimpse into a different, exciting life through these meals. Food continues to be a window to a variety of worlds as Chef Pacheco combines several inspirations – such as traditional French techniques mixed with flavors inspired by his Mexican heritage – into his dishes, creating a Cal-French cuisine with a Texas twang.

Pacheco first began working at the Sanford House in 2012 where he has since found a second family, from the owners to the management to the greenest cook to the clientele. With a front row seat to Downtown Arlington’s evolution over the past decade, Pacheco has grown side-by-side with his city. “The more the city grows and the larger and more diverse the population gets, it has allowed me to introduce new ingredients from around the world into my dishes,” said Chef Pacheco.

With an open mind and hunger for knowledge, being a chef is a never-ending learning experience. “We never stop learning, and we should never stop teaching the next generation of chefs and cooks,” said Chef Pacheco. “Once you gain some experience and begin to excel, you have to stay humble and keep that same energy to continuing pushing yourself.”

“Don’t Be Afraid to Mess Up.” – A Thing or Two with Chef Sydney Toledo, Inspirations Fork & Table

Sydney Toledo, one of the chefs at the family-owned Inspirations Fork & Table, was born with a toque on her head and an apron around her neck. At a young age, she found a second home in the kitchen with her mother always cracking open the massive generational cookbook and showing Sydney the difference between simply “cooking” and pouring your heart and soul in your food.

These hand-written recipes have persevered through the Toledo family history due to their endless creativity. “One thing I always like to say is that the greatest recipe will be the best outline,” said Chef Toledo. “You need to think outside the box to put a spin on [the recipe] to make it your own.” This artistic mindset flourished throughout Sydney’s high school years where she excelled in culinary competitions and learned how to challenge herself while sharing her passion with the world.

Inspirations Fork & Table is the culmination of generations of love as the entire Toledo family plays their part every single day, bouncing ideas off each other and constantly growing together. “Our dedication to each other, and to the community, has allowed us to push the limits and be open with our creativity,” said Sydney. “We could not be more grateful for the support that we have here in Arlington.”

Be sure to visit Café Americana, Restaurant506 at the Sanford House, and Inspirations Fork & Table, and give your compliments to the chef as you enjoy dishes a lifetime in the making. Follow Downtown Arlington on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and subscribe to the Downtown Arlington Newsletter to stay up to date on any upcoming projects and future chefs of Downtown.