What chefs cook at home: Wes Avila’s Summer Shrimp Zarandeado
Wes Avila has certainly stayed busy since he closed Guerrilla Tacos, the critically acclaimed Arts District restaurant he evolved from a single Downtown taco cart, in August. The classically trained L.A. chef is now involved in fresh new partnerships, including his new Piopiko restaurant at Japan’s Ace Hotel Kyoto, and various consulting roles.
His profession might take him halfway around the world, but Avila has never lost his love for cooking with family and friends at his Glendale home.
“I want something comforting and homey,” he says. “If it’s cold, something a little on the heavier side, and if it’s hot, something on the lighter side — more grilling, more raw-ceviche kind of stuff.”
Avila, who grew up in Pico Rivera, saved up his earnings as a forklift driver and enrolled in Pasadena’s California School of Culinary Arts in 2003. When he graduated in 2005, he set off for Paris to study under celebrated Monégasque chef Alain Ducasse. After completing the program in 2008, Avila landed a job at the legendary L’Auberge Carmel restaurant back home in California before decamping to DTLA and debuting his original taco cart in 2012.
That cart would morph into the raved-about Guerrilla Tacos food truck, championed by the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jonathan Gold, and then a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2018.
When cooking at home, Avila says, he has lately refocused on sheer flavor and sensation over presentation and pizzazz.
“It’s become more Wes-style, more grandma-style, more long cooking,” he explains. “Less pretentious, to be honest. Less showy. Less about impressing and [instead about] just being delicious.”
In the past, Avila has grilled whole fish, lobster, steak and shrimp at get-togethers around a friend’s pool. Over recent months, he’s enjoyed food exchanges with his Indian neighbors across the hall, such as swapping his chili relleno for their butter chicken, which, he says, is “a good way to kind of stay connected and share what we create as humans.”
“Some of my previous stuff has been really plated, and you can tell it’s very thought-out — maybe too thought-out,” Avila says. “So, what I’ve done right now is edit … basically, take away. It doesn’t need this garnish, it doesn’t need that. It just needs to be delicious.”
Drawing inspiration from an August fishing trip to Baja California to celebrate his father’s birthday, Avila devised his new Summer Shrimp Zarandeado just an hour before he spoke with us.
“It’s that smell of cooking, like onions and shrimp on the outdoor grill with garlic, and brushing over the butter and lemon,” he says of the dish. “It just sounds good and just smells good.”
You can create chef Avila’s Summer Shrimp Zarandeado for yourself using Good & Gather raw shrimp (which come peeled and deveined, tail on-or -off), Good & Gather orange juice (available organic and not-from-concentrate), and Good & Gather Distilled White Vinegar. All are available only at Target.
Wes Avila’s Summer Shrimp Zarandeado
2 lbs. fresh shrimp or Good & Gather Frozen Shrimp (Raw, Tail On, Peeled & Deveined)
8 Guajillo chiles
35 grams achiote or annatto seed, ground or in a paste
2 cups Good & Gather 100% Pulp-Free Orange Juice (Not From Concentrate)
Juice from 6 limes
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. Good & Gather Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp. Maggi seasoning
4 tbsp. Good & Gather Organic Tamari Soy Sauce
4 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. Good & Gather Salt
2 tbsp. Good & Gather White Vinegar
1 tbsp. Good & Gather Organic Ground Cumin
1 tbsp. fresh peeled ginger
2 cup peeled Good & Gather Organic Cucumbers, cut to ¼” cubes
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (julienned)
Large wooden toothpicks or metal meat skewers
De-seed guajillo chile, place all ingredients in blender, and blend on high until very smooth, about 3 minutes.
Marinate shrimp in zarandeado sauce for 45 minutes. Place about 4 pieces of shrimp per skewer. Set grill to medium heat or charcoal over medium heat area of grill.
Cook shrimp for approximately 6 to 8 minutes or until no longer opaque. Remove from grill and place onto foil-lined plate or tray, season with salt and pepper, squeeze plenty of fresh lime over top, and garnish with cucumber and red onion.