Mateo Granados

The former dishwasher and Mexican highway patrol officer now owns Mateo’s Cocina Latina.

Mateo Granados (photography by Chris Hardy)

For a former Mexican highway patrol officer and soccer player who landed his first American job washing dishes, Mateo Granados has come a long way.

Working his way up from the soap and suds at Julie’s Supper Club in San Francisco to more refined kitchen gigs at Bay Area institutions including Masa’s, Manka’s and Dry Creek Kitchen, Granados now runs Mateo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg, with its summer-popular patio. Signature dishes range from bistec Yucateco with local potatoes to slow-roasted chochinita pibil and whole fish of the day over pumpkin-seed pepper sauce.

Just don’t ask him for generic “Mexican food.” Sworn to sustainability and local farms, Granados describes his “new Latin cuisine” as a culinary Pangaea: “I’m putting the continents together. I can take from Argentina or from Chile or a part of Portugal where they speak Spanish. If you read about the history of Yucatecan cuisine, it’s Lebanese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Jewish crossed with Mayan.”

When he’s not in the kitchen, Granados is busy driving one around, bringing street food to the people through his Tendejon de la Calle catering business, or bottling hot sauces, or catching a Mexican national team soccer game.

Then: Born and lived in Oxkutzcab on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, with two sisters, his butcher father and high school teacher mother

Now: Lives in Healdsburg with his girlfriend of 10 years, Circe Sher

On love and life: “I said to her, ‘If I were a woman, I would never marry a chef.’ She just laughs. She is my muse. She keeps me inspired.”

Age: 49

Age he first learned to butcher a cow: 8

Time spent as highway patrol officer in Mexico City: Three months

Favorite hobby: Mushroom hunting

Favorite breed of pig: Mangalitsa

On carrying giant salmon through the restaurant: “Food is not something you want to hear about. You need to see it to believe it. I show them the eyes, how clear they are, how fresh it is.”

Position in soccer: Right wing

What he loves about soccer and cooking: “You have to play as a team, just like in the kitchen. You may hate someone in the kitchen, but it can never show in the food. And on the field, you still pass them the ball because you all have the same goal.”