Excerpt from Mexico by Josh Barkan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Mexico

Stories

by Josh Barkan

Mexico by Josh Barkan X
Mexico by Josh Barkan
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  • Published:
    Jan 2017, 256 pages

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Sarah Tomp

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THE CHEF AND EL CHAPO

How the hell "El Chapo" Guzmán chose my restaurant to come into, I'll never know. It was just like the stunt he's done in a few other cities—Nuevo León and Culiacán. Guzmán—"Shorty"—it was him, with all his narco clothing. He had on a baseball cap with some of that digitalized camouflage the U.S. Army invented for Iraq, and a beige down parka. It was one of those cold days in June, after the rainy season has started, and the most badass narco in the country must have felt just a touch of a chill. Crazy! In my restaurant. With fifteen bodyguards swarming around him. The guards came in first. They all had AK-47s swinging in their arms. They came in fast and polite, rushing past the maître d'. The leader of the guards, a tall guy with a neatly trimmed thin mustache and a diamond earring, swooped into the center of the dining room and yelled out, "The Boss will be coming soon. Everyone give us your purses and cell phones and continue with your meal. Nobody leaves before The Boss is done. If you cooperate, everything will be fine. You'll get your purses and phones returned when The Boss is done. Leave your check. The Boss will pay for your meal."

I knew Shorty was short, of course, but when he came in, it was surprising to see just how small the biggest drug kingpin was. He walked in quickly, like he knew where he was going. He turned to the first table, to the left, and introduced himself. He removed his cap and said in polite Spanish, "Hello, my name is El Chapo Guzmán. Nice to meet you." He smiled and extended his hand to shake with one of the customers, an old man in a blue blazer who, fortunately, had the presence of mind to shake back. The customer looked like he'd just seen a ghost.

Guzmán went from table to table shaking hands like a politician asking for votes of approval. But the way he smiled, with a permanent grin and his eyes a little too focused on the clients, he seemed to be saying: You will like me! I'm not so fucking bad, right? After he reached the last table, he chuckled, cracking himself up. He was the most badass jokester in the world. He was the biggest gentleman, extending his hand of courtesy to every diner, after he'd killed hundreds.

Guzmán went from table to table shaking hands like a politician asking for votes of approval. But the way he smiled, with a permanent grin and his eyes a little too focused on the clients, he seemed to be saying: You will like me! I'm not so fucking bad, right? After he reached the last table, he chuckled, cracking himself up. He was the most badass jokester in the world. He was the biggest gentleman, extending his hand of courtesy to every diner, after he'd killed hundreds.

Everyone in Mexico knows about him: how he married yet another young woman, some beauty queen, and how she had twins in a hospital in Los Angeles. How the guy controls all the cocaine, pot, and most of the meth and heroin that's going into the U.S. I've only been in Mexico two years, building the restaurant up, but anyone who's spent time down here knows the names of all these narcos like they're the heroes and devils of the soap operas that are on all day in every housewife's home and in every cantina.

So it didn't take a genius to know the guy who'd just walked into my restaurant was capable of killing me and every one of my clients, and I was the head chef.

EL CHAPO ASKED to be escorted to a private room, in back, where we sometimes have lunches for important business people. My restaurant is in the neighborhood of Polanco, on the border with the most expensive neighborhood of Las Lomas, where all the international banks are located. The food in my restaurant is a mix of French with new American cuisine—meaning anything is OK, fusion with Asian touches, wasabi with bourbon crab, pork with chanterelle mushrooms in a ginger cream sauce with Beluga caviar sprinkled on top, arugula salad with truffle shavings and Cointreau sauce.

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Excerpted from Mexico by Josh Barkan. Copyright © 2017 by Josh Barkan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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