Chef Tadd Chapman Interview


Habanero’s Gastro Grill – Don Sanchez – Local Uno

Chef Tadd takes the art of dining along exquisite paths of Mexican-fusion cuisine, combining experience and excellence in every morsel. He has always liked cooking. He shared with Cabo Dream Homes that two women and a man were his culinary inspiration. One woman, his mother, declared the chef, “…because she cooks like a dream, and the other, his stepmother because she does not.” The man is his father, who helped Chef Tadd get his start building his gastronomy empire, and is also a fantastic grill cook. Chef Tadd admitted that he probably is a “grill-guy at heart.”

Chef Tadd’s education in gastronomy began when he was fifteen. He soon graduated from the Culinary Arts program at Vancouver Island University at the top of his class. After coming to Los Cabos on vacation, following a brief stint with Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts, the passionate, young chef returned to Canada for just long enough to grab his kit and move to Los Cabos.

It was the serendipitous beginning of what is now a solid collection of restaurants with a broad following, all located in downtown San Jose del Cabo. His restaurants have been featured in some of the best of the best in international and national dining magazines. His first restaurant, Tulip Tree, was a collaboration with his father, and a great success. Long-time residents of Los Cabos remember it with fondness.

His next successful venture was Shooters, still going strong, a sports bar with frequent live music, a comfortable atmosphere, reasonable prices, good food and service, and a view of both the estuary and Mijares Plaza. He moved on from these enterprises to create Habaneros Gastro Grill, on the other side of downtown San José del Cabo, in Plaza Misión.

At Habanero’s Gastro Grill, Chef Tadd confessed, he “threw all his eggs in one basket and worked 95 hours per week to perfect the menu, polish the service, and wow the clientele” with his original Mexican-fusion home-style combinations in this family-oriented restaurant. Well worth the effort, Habanero’s Gastro Grill continues today, under the stewardship of his mother, Christine Chapman.

It was at Habanero’s where Chef Tadd formalized his style, enchanted with what he describes as the foundation of Mexican gastronomy: the versatility of chilies and the freshness of ingredients. He says,

My style comes from a combination of my international food training and the introduction to a plethora of dry and crushed chilies, and the creation of moles (flavorful sauces made with chilies and usually chocolate) and ceviche. I like to let the flavors come out without really doing much. I like the general freshness. It is the School of Fresh – the difference between ketchup and fresh salsa.”

In all of Chef Tadd’s restaurants, he has pledged to source locally and sustainably. In recent years he has become involved with organic farming and is one of the leaders in the current movement, making a conscious pledge to abide by the saying, “The best food is the food that has come the least distance from the land or sea, to your home.”

With Habanero’s up and running, Chef Tadd’s next enterprise came at the behest of a family friend, local developer Byron Hill, whose restaurant called the Trailer Park, was not doing well. Chapman’s mother came onboard to help manage Habanero’s and Chef Tadd took on his friend’s project. Within six months, he had turned it around, but the land it was located, sold soon after and the restaurant concluded.

“With,” Chef Tadd shared, “relatively-speaking, time on my hands” and experience in starting from the ground up in a foreign country, the innovative Chef Tadd was ready for more. Inspired by the bounty of fresh local ingredients, he opened the upscale Don Sanchez, a forum for his original style contemporary Baja cuisine where he can express his “…passion for using local and exotic ingredients in creative ways, re-interpreting some of our favorite dishes and giving them a new spin through culinary artistry.”

Originally on the second floor, Don Sanchez soon expanded to the main floor of Edificio Eclipse, on Mijares Boulevard. It includes more space, an expanded international and national wine cellar stocked for pairings, and a menu featuring Chef Tadd’s extraordinary contemporary interpretation of Mexican cuisine. Each dish is meticulously thought through and assures Chef Tadd, “…not something you will find anywhere else.”

At Don Sanchez, Chef Tadd recommends the succulent Surf and Turf taco which is a rib eye steak and soft shell crab combination served on a beet tortilla with habanero mayonnaise. As well as Bellies and Suckers, a mouthwatering delight of Hoisin pork belly, grilled octopus, smoked carrot, puya chili, squid ink aioli, avocado arugula puree, chorizo dust, and pickled cauliflower. With a Sommelier to guide you through the premium wine list, exacting service in an elegant, secluded ambiance, Don Sanchez is a fine-dining adventure for all the senses.

In 2012, Tadd’s enterprises combined to form Tadd Chapman Restaurants Group. Chef Tadd kept the original upstairs location of Don Sanchez and rebranded it with the Retro Burger which in 2017, as described by Chef Tadd, “morphed into Local Uno and allows us to be more locally focused.” Local Uno offers uniquely original bar food, a casual gourmet version of Don Sanchez, and features burgers, octopus aguachile, and ceviche among others. The venue frequently offers live entertainment, televised sports and local events.

Each of Chef Tadd’s restaurants has its own specific focus, all with the common denominator of using local, sustainable ingredients, and infusing the Mexican influence. Each restaurant’s menu is limited to under thirty items, because, as Chef Tadd explains, “Attention is paid to each menu item being exquisite, rather than offering 100 items poorly done.”

Chef Tadd’s advice for our readers on the preparation of Mexican cuisine? 

It took me years and I am still learning Mexican cuisine. It is so versatile. The first thing would be to get the best, freshest local ingredients. If you are going to do ceviche, go to the market, ask for what just came off the boat. The basic rule is start with the freshest ingredients. Start with a good product, you will get a good final product. Don’t over complicate things. Sometimes less is more. And whatever you do, do it with love, and share it with friends and family.”

Much of Chef Tadd’s long-term success is due to his commitment to the community. He offers accessible menus to both local residents and tourists, as well as fun promotions because as he rightly states, “The people who live here are the ones who recommend us.”

One of the many creative examples of Chef Tadd’s commitment to his adopted home, is an event held at Local Uno. It is the Caja Negra, which means Black Box, and is held four times per year. Clients get to taste the best that four guest chefs create with their surprise box of ingredients. The boxes are delivered to the chefs the night prior to the event, and the chefs are challenged to make the best meal they can with what the boxes contain. Another popular event is the Mango Fest, where three chefs are individually challenged to include mango in each of the dishes of a five-course meal.

Chef Tadd is also a longtime supporter of many charities and on the board of local nonprofit LigaMAC. He has hosted countless events to raise funds for those in need. Now, in his early forties, Chef Tadd is ready to slow it down, and manage his culinary enterprise in less than 95 hours per week so he can enjoy life and spend more time with his two children, to whom he is devoted. However, if he or his mother are in, the always approachable, Chef Tadd invites you to say hi whenever you drop by.

Habanero’s Gastro Grill: 624-142-2626 8am-10:30pm daily
Don Sanchez: 624-142-2444 Chef’s Tasting Hours by Reservation Only, Noon-4pm with 24hr notice.
Dinner Service: 5:30-10:30pm
Local Uno: 624-130-7042 11am to midnight daily

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