Jesse Kuykendall, chef and founder of Milpa in San Antonio, Texas, attributes her love of food to her mother and role model, Carmen. Growing up in Laredo, Texas, Jesse’s mother is well-known for her extraordinary talents in the kitchen and her famous made-from-scratch dishes, like pozole and mole.
When Jesse left Laredo to move to San Antonio, the thing she missed the most about home was her mother’s cooking. So, she did the next best thing to get some comfort from the kitchen and began exploring the culinary industry as a server. It did not take long for her interest to move from the front of house to the back of house kitchen. She knew becoming a chef was the direction she was headed.
After attending the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, she decided to travel throughout Mexico’s various regions and learn more about the traditional food she grew up eating at her mother’s kitchen table. During this time, Jesse attended the Seasons of My Heart Culinary School in Oaxaca where she met another role model in her life, Susana Trilling, chef and founder of the school.
Under Susana’s tutelage, Jesse further developed her passion for cooking authentic Mexican cuisine and knew it was time to advance her culinary career. After taking on an executive chef role in a leading boutique hotel in San Antonio and continuing to fuel her passion for food, Jesse decided she wanted to share her stories and memories through food at her own location.
And, her food truck, Milpa, was born. There she showcases a variety of her favorite Mexican street foods. Jesse, affectionately known as Chef Kirk, describes her own cooking style as “simple, straight forward, and from the heart.” The combination of her upbringing, personal kitchen experiences, and travels within the different regions of Mexico bring together amazing and authentic Mexican flavors to the masses.
Chef Kirk is excited about what the future will bring and is already growing her business, operating the Raza Restaurant Group with projects in the works. Her goal is to bring even more authentic and inspired selections to San Antonians in 2021.