Cristina Martinez (chef)

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Cristina Martinez
Culinary career

Cristina Martinez is a Mexican chef and immigration activist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Martinez is a native of Capulhuac, Mexico, and she is an undocument immigrant who crossed the border from Juárez into the United States.[1] She found a job in Philadelphia as a pastry chef in an Italian restaurant, where she met and married Benjamin Miller, a U.S. citizen.[2] Martinez was fired from the restaurant when they discovered her undocumented status, and she began cooking food for other Mexican workers in her apartment.[3]

As demand grew for Martinez's home-made barbacoa, she and Miller began selling tacos from a pushcart on weekends.[2] In 2015, they opened a permanent restaurant, South Philly Barbacoa.[1][2] In 2016, Bon Appétit magazine named it one of the top ten best new restaurants in America.[3]

Martinez and Miller are active in supporting undocumented immigrants in the restaurant industry, establishing an organization, the Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers' Rights.[2] In 2017, Univision produced a Spanish-language podcast about Martinez, called Mejor vete, Cristina ("You Better Leave, Cristina"), which won Mejor Cobertura Multimedia (Best Multimedia Coverage) at the 2018 Ortega y Gasset Awards.[2] Martinez was also featured on an episode of the Netflix series Chef's Table in 2018.[1]

In 2019, Martinez was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Fuhrmeister, Chris (September 28, 2018). "'Chef's Table' Recap: Cristina Martinez Makes Taco Magic at South Philly Barbacoa". Eater.
  2. ^ a b c d e "One of the country's top chefs and her battle for undocumented immigrants". Univision. April 3, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "An Undocumented Mexican Chef Runs One of the Country's Best New Restaurants". Bon Appétit. August 24, 2016.
  4. ^ Hermann, Adam (March 27, 2019). "Marc Vetri, Cristina Martinez among six Philly finalists for 2019 James Beard awards". Philly Voice.