Chef Saul Ortiz was pretty much destined for a career in the kitchen. After all, he was born in one.
"My mother couldn't make it on time to the hospital and my father was on his way back (from work)," Ortiz said, laughing. " My mother gave birth to me in the kitchen, on the kitchen floor...it's just the truth, I was born in the kitchen."
For the 38 year-old chef, the kitchen has played a central role in his life ever since. Ortiz, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico City at the age of 13, now serves as the executive chef of Tacos and Tequila inside of the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. And every time he steps foot into the kitchen, he feels at home.
"Anytime I roast a pepper, or am making a salsa," said Ortiz, "it makes me feel like this is where I belong."
Ortiz started working in restaurants at the age of 17, landing jobs along the way as a cook prep, bus boy, line cook, and room chef at steakhouses and casinos in Reno and Las Vegas. Through networking and handwork, he landed his current executive job at Tacos in Tequila in 2008 and hasn't looked back. It's an opportunity that he relishes since he's able to pay homage to his Mexican culinary by giving traditional dishes a more modern twist.
"Mixing cheese with traditional cheese like gouda, jack, or stuff like that, kind of makes people more (likely) to accept it, "said Ortiz. "They make people kind of relate to 'oh, I've had this cheese before...it's not like a crazy cheese I've never had.'"
And for people back in Mexico City looking to achieve the American Dream, Ortiz offered this piece of advice.
"I don't want to sound corny or cheesy, but just try to do things with good intentions, said Ortiz. "Try to do your best., if they say you can't, try to prove them wrong."