The Saints of Todos Santos: Chef Iker Algorri

Would it make you feel any better about vacationing in Mexico if you had a federal agent serving you all your meals? Then come on down to Todos Santos because Café Brown has the solution for you! Owner/Chef Iker Algorri worked as a federal agent for the state of Baja California Sur for 12 years before hanging up his badge and picking up a spatula to turn out some of the best home-cooked Mexican food you can find anywhere.

It was the agent’s instinct for survival that led him to cooking in the first place. “My mother hated to cook, so at our house we had the eternal picnic. Sandwiches, tuna salad, peanut butter. So I started cooking just to have something besides picnic food. The more sandwiches she made the more I applied myself in the kitchen. Seeing how serious I was, she finally relented and hired a cook. But not just any cook. She hired a Tlaxcaltecan woman – someone with absolutely no Spanish blood in her – who really knew how to make the great traditional dishes of Mexico. I learned an incredible amount from her, then later got the confidence to modify and create and really make things my own. It’s this blend of traditional Mexico and experimentation that I love to serve our guests at Café Brown.”

Iker grew up in Mexico City and moved to Baja in 1983 to start a career that took him all over the peninsula. In addition to his 12 years as a federal agent, Iker also worked as a translator for the court (like many Mexico City kids, he was fluent in English by the time he graduated from high school), an official with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, a Mexican ATF agent, and as a Customs officer. He even got a law degree and worked as a lawyer. In short, Iker served as all those people that you love to hate, which makes it all the more amazing that Iker and Café Brown together are two of the most-loved institutions in town.

While Iker’s mother indirectly got him interested in cooking, his father directly got him invested in Café Brown. When visiting Iker in La Paz in 2000, his dad took a side trip to Todos Santos and promptly announced, “Now I know where I’m going to die.” (Todos Santos often has that effect – ask all the residents who now have extended family living here!) Iker finished up 20 years with the government, took early retirement, and opened Café Brown with his dad in 2003. It was one of the first arts-oriented cafes in town, and has always featured live music/great recorded music, works by local artists, drumming circles, Spanish-language movies, lots of dancing and of course, cooking classes and the Cooking Adventures Week with Todos Santos Eco Adventures. That there is fabulous food is a given. Iker’s motto is “Happiness is only real when it’s shared” and sharing happiness is what the Café Brown experience is all about. And of course, it’s all perfectly safe with Federal Agent/Chef Iker running the show!

Chef Iker Algorri with Portrait at Cafe Brown

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2011