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Issue Date: May 2008 Issue

Eric Williams

Eric Williams puts a new twist on the old adage: If you can’t stand the chile pepper, get out of the Mexican restaurant biz. Williams, of course, has a special fondness for the chile. It’s a base ingredient at his Ohio City hot spot.

His career has been forged in the heat of Mexican restaurant kitchens, first as sous chef, then executive chef at Lopez y Gonzalez. When he decided to make a move, it was half out of passion and half business, he says.

“Cleveland didn’t have a Mod-Mex restaurant. I thought it deserved one,” he explains. His aim with Momocho is to create “simple, straightforward food with a well-balanced flavor.”

The robust dishes streaming out of the Momocho kitchen stem from an array of disparate flavors, from honey to searing-hot habaneros. That particular pepper even pops up on his dessert menu.

“I’m trying to give people unique flavors. I try to keep it simple, with a few surprises,” says Williams. But this is Mexican-style cooking: It’s not always very simple to prepare. His mole, which takes two days to make, contains more than 50 ingredients.

But he always gets the most out of his sometimes unorthodox ingredient choices, and nowhere does it shine more than in his six varieties of guacamole. Whether he’s coaxing harmony out of a pineapple, habanero and mint mixture, or mashing his avocados with smoked trout and bacon, the result is consistently a success.

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