Hotel Dena's new chef Pablo Salas promises guests a soulful Mexican culinary experience

Get ready for some authentic Mexican food - and tips on becoming a chef.
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What’s better than eating authentic cuisine from another culture? A Mexican culinary experience sometimes means getting on a flight or road-tripping across the border. However, you can still get genuine Mexican food in the U.S. if you look for it in the right places. Los Angeles, for example, is a popular hub for these tasty international eats. 

Now, Hotel Dena in Pasadena is teaming up with the renowned Chef Pablo Salas to give guests a taste of Mexico. Here’s what you need to know about Salas and his signature dishes that have wowed guests across North America.

Tasting a True Mexican Culinary Experience

Salas’ claim to fame is his restaurant Amaranta, located in Mexico. The chef grew up in Toluca, where he dedicated his career to local cuisine. Hotel Dena selected Salas to head the restaurant because of his talents and dedication to the Mexican culinary experience.

“We are proud to partner with the incredibly talented Chef Pablo Salas,” said Marlon Gonzalez, General Manager of Hotel Dena, via press release. “We are in awe of his creativity and passion in bringing authentic Mexican cuisine to the forefront and are confident in his ability to impress our guests with his inventive signature dishes. He brings undercover flavors to the area that are very unique and authentic using lots of ingredients one would not think about. It's just amazing.”

Salas will prepare meals in Agents Only, a small, 42-seat restaurant inside Hotel Dena. Agents Only is a Los Angeles staple, displaying WRDSMTH art and Ian Schuler and Leah Tumerman murals. You also get nightly performances from comedians, musicians, poets, and other local performers to pair with your Mexican culinary experience in Pasadena.

Building on Culinary Success

While Salas’ food might be new to Los Angeles, he’s a household name in the Mexican culinary world. Amaranta is one of central Mexico’s most popular restaurants, gaining notoriety after Salas appeared on the TV series Iron Chief: Mexico.

The chef has appeared in numerous culinary events as a speaker or a judge. These festivities include Sabor, Baja Culinary Fest, Pacific Cooks, and much more. Salas’ accomplishments led to Mexico’s senate honoring his contributions to the Mexican culinary experience.

In addition to his chef duties, Salas is part of the Conservatory of Mexican Gastronomic Culture and the Mexican Cooking Collective, A.C. Additionally, he teaches cooking classes throughout the country to help others understand the cuisine.

Gonzalez has undoubtedly noticed an uptick in customers since launching the culinary partnership with Chef Salas. “We've started building a local trend where our neighbors are talking about it and bringing friends and family to taste our new experience at Hotel Dena,” he told Guilty Eats. “What's most exciting about our partnership with Chef Salas is being able to see and learn from one of the most talented Mexican chefs. It is truly exciting! Egos don't exist, and the only thing that matters is bringing a unique experience. Watching how passionate he is about his craft is just incredible.”

Getting a Glimpse of the Dishes

Research shows nearly 11% of American restaurants serve Mexican food due to its popularity here. Street corners nationwide have cantinas serving quesadillas, tortas, and other dishes for an authentic Mexican culinary experience. Here’s what you can expect from Salas’ restaurant in Hotel Dena.


You don’t have to wait until National Avocado Day in September to dive into green goodness. Agents Only’s traditional guacamole contains avocado, lime, cilantro, tomato, and onion. This creamy dip is vegan and healthy with its vegetables and unsaturated fats.

Carne asada

The thought of skirt steak is enough to get your mouth watering. Salas’ carne asada is delectable with oaxaca cheese, onion and cilantro. The tasty seasonings in Mexican cuisine put this dish over the top. 


There’s something for everybody at Agents Only. The restaurant serves delicious nachos for kids or anybody who wants to keep it simple for the evening. This dish has chipotle cheese sauce, pickled onions and chilis, guacamole, sour cream, cotija and beans.

Yellow corn esquites

Mexican street corn is a staple on TikTok, as many creators have replicated the dish with different twists and flavors. This beloved treat is on the Agents Only menu through yellow corn esquites. The creaminess of mayo and queso fresco combined with lime and chilli powder for a party for your taste buds. 

Baja-style fish

Do you crave seafood in your Mexican culinary experience? The Baja-style fish lets you taste the Pacific coast with beer-battered mahi, chipotle slaw and pico de gallo. The magnificent dish tastes great inside a taco shell or by itself.

Tips to Become a Renowned Chef

Chefs like Salas spend years honing their craft and satisfying patrons to build their success. How can you become a renowned chef? Follow these five tips. 

1. Nail the fundamentals

Like a professional athlete, chefs must thoroughly understand the fundamentals before succeeding. These techniques include holding a knife, cooking meat properly and combining different flavors. What wines go best with your menu? Your approach will matter for guests with seasoned palates.

2. Practice food safety

One fundamental aspect that chefs can’t afford to make mistakes about is food safety. You must store your food at the proper temperature or risk spoilage. For example, a sushi chef must freeze their raw fish at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for up to seven days. The last thing you want is to make somebody sick.

3. Get used to long nights

Chefs dedicate most of their time to the restaurant, working long days and late nights to get everything right. Experts say these professionals work 10-12 hours daily and 50-70 hours weekly.

4. Take risks

Successful chefs find ways to stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to take risks and find unconventional pairings in your dishes. Take notes from “Master Chef” when contestants combined Southern cuisine with ingredients popular in Vietnamese and Ethiopian cultures.

5. Display solid leadership

Being a chef isn’t just about the food — you need to be a solid leader of people. You can’t run a five-star Michelin restaurant alone and expect to satisfy a full dining room. Chefs should know how to delegate and properly guide their assistants no matter their tasks.

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