International Chef Waldo is Extraordinaire
Photos by Ramón Hernández
Chef Waldo Frank Óscar Castro Zambrano is so prominent and so much as has been written about him and his famous dishes in countless superlative adjectives that it is hard to describe him and his creations without fear of being accused of plagiarism.
The story of this Wonderful, Amazing, Latino, Distinguished Outgoing human being, who is also Courteous, HHelpful, Exceptional and Flamboyant, is as astounding as its subject.
The world renowned chef’s love for cooking began when he was just a young boy and cooking became a passion that made him the best among his peers. Perhaps his secret is several lifetimes of recipes that his mother passed down to him as a sort of culinary inheritance.
Waldito, as he is affectionately called, completed his culinary studies in Lima, Perú in October 1981, spent two years working each position in the kitchen, then went on to cook in the most prestigious Peruvian hotel chains that sent him to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands and other Caribbean countries as an executive chef.
To learn firsthand about other Latin cuisines and the meaning of food in other countries, the industrious young man also spent some time traveling to Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia.
That accumulated experience translated into an impressive resume that allowed the ambitious young chef to explore new horizons. He set his vision on the United States and in 1986, the chef, who was born on the fourth of July, migrated to Miami where, a year later, the go-getter obtained his certificate for Interior Decoration from the University of Miami followed by a business management degree in 1989.
Determined to succeed, in 1995, Waldo was named “Manager of the Year” of the Hyatt Regency at the Almamera in Coral Gables, Florida and in July 1999, he participated in El Foro 99, a technical symposium and exposition for professionals in the Latin American Food Industry.
The achiever forged ahead as production chef, banquet chef, executive chef and executive Sous chef for five-star hotels such as Hotel Inter-Continental, Don Shula’s Hotel & Gold Club, Radisson’s Deauville Resort, the Sheraton and the Colonnade Hotel in Miami, Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Bal Harbour, Florida. It was also at these hotels where the charismatic chef was put in charge of private banquets for President Bill Clinton, Julio Iglesias, Enrique Iglesias, Meryl Streep and many other world-known celebrities.
Then it was on to the Doubletree Hotel in Atlanta, Buckhead, Georgia, where in 2002, the now acknowledged, class act chef received the “Leader of the Quarter” award.
Returning to Miami before the end of the year, the daring and dynamic chef opened Chick-N-Grill and by November, food critics for newspapers such as Perú Hoy were writing rave reviews about the tender, juicy and tasty chicken that emitted an exotic aroma, but was yet healthy due to Waldo’s unique combination of tropical herbs.
As a business owner, Waldo became the vice-president of the American Christian Chamber of Commerce and also started giving back to the community. Hence was recognized for his efforts with a Certificate of Appreciation from Dade Partners.
The year 2005, also signaled the first of many accolades to follow when he received a citation from the El Rey Jesús Leadership Institute.
Not one to rest on his laurels, in 2009, Chef Waldo arrived in the Alamo City to manage the Crowne Plaza Hotel. However, he was ready to set Texas’ culinary world on fire and give the city his Divine Taste in the way of catering with flair, but why San Antonio?
“I call it the baby Miami because there are people from so many nations and cultures; and it’s expanding,” the gregarious chef said with a smile.
Quickly building up a reputation for his culinary skills, it wasn’t long before the remarkable Peruvian became even more visible when he was featured on the Food Network’s television show, “Iron Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”
The problem is that only those that attended an event that he catered, were able to enjoy his succulent dishes. To go public, in 2010 Waldo came up with the idea of mixing food with entertainment in the way of live music acts when he organized “Sabor A Mi” for the National Hispanic Professional Organization (NHPO). The ingenious chef then garnered more publicity when he delighted many San Antonio mom’s by cooking up a special international breakfast for a Telemundo television Mother’s Day event.
The demand for his culinary delights indicated that he needed to open his own restaurant, but no one would help him. However, he was daring, rented a space in a strip center and started out with one table with his wife Josephine “Josie” Bocanegra waiting on first one, then two and three tables as the determined chef cooked, served, washed dishes and ended the night with broom and mop in hand as he helped his wife clean up the place.
“I decided to open my own restaurant because it was in my plans, but it wasn’t easy trying to take an idea to make money without having money. The business was going up, but I still needed help and that’s when they told me about Acción,” Waldo said of the organization that was instrumental in his survival.
Then, as a music promoter and sponsored by NHPO, in October 2010, he brought in Tito Puente Jr., Domenic Marte and Los Tres Reyes to the Sunken Gardens. And yes, those in attendance were introduced to Waldo’s cooking.
The following year, Waldo hosted his own International Month Celebration that featured foods from ten countries on January 15, 2011 at Wonderland of the Americas. Later that same year, he brought his Taste of the America’s event plus eight salsa/merengue/reggaeton bands to what was now the “Sabor A Mi” International Festival Salsarengueton.
His “Taste of the America’s” also razzle dazzled event goers to the Fats Tuesday event at Wonderland of the America’s. In summary, all his events were huge hits.
In 2012, the established, acknowledged professional chef was called upon to provide his input at the St. Philip’s College committee meetings as an advisor to help them keep their curriculum up to date in regard to their teachings to culinary, pastry and restaurant students.
The rise of this formidable chef was surprisingly astonishing. Was it because of his exceptional cooking skills and exotic, creative dishes or was it due to his endearing personality?
Waldo attributes his rise to fame to persistence and most important to God, who heard and answered his prayers.
Most people agree that he is todo corazón, he’s all heart and that has made him highly respected member of our community. A classic example of what he is doing for others is Chef Waldo’s Wheel Chair Foundation through which this Good Samaritan’s co-president, Josie, and James Holtzclaw formed with the main purpose of taking care of children and others with disabilities by specifically distributing wheel chairs obtained through private funding sources and donations, to those in need at no cost.
“The Bible says, ‘give and you shall receive.’ I’m a Christian, so I have a lot of faith and with a good woman and son by your side, how could I not be blessed,” the extremely, generous 52-year-old restaurateur said.
“I give back to the community because I simply like to help people and I love to do everything I can for a human being; and if you give, they’ll love you back.
Now that you have met the man behind the taste, this writer will introduce you to his craft and the culinary creativity that has made him a star, that thanks to a slew of glowing rave reviews by top-notch, tough as nails, highly opinionated food critics, is fast becoming legendary.
When it comes to catering special events, ceviche is at the top of his menu and Waldo makes this dish by placing shrimp and fish into an artfully crafted citrus marinade and it isn’t long before the acid in the juice begins to ‘cook’ the fresh chunks of fish, scallops, shrimp and more. After you take a bite of this zingy creation, you will never want to eat any other version again.
Incidentally, the ceviche is served with a small glass of the marinating leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) juice, which is reputed to act as an aphrodisiac.
Other goodies in the salad section include saipicon de pollo. The main course on the carving station is a choice of pork, chicken rotisserie; yucca cooked two different ways, tostones and maduros.
The hot station may features parmesan risotto, tomato basic risotto, paella Valenciana, fresh Napoleon vegetables plus homemade chicken and pork tamales wrapped in green banana leaves.
To quench the thirst and make the food go down smoothly, Chef Waldo prepares his famous homemade orange, pineapple and peach iced tea.
Waldo’s patrons cannot help but sate themselves followed by taking care of their sweet tooth with a vast array of fresh fruits that one can dip in a cascading flow of chocolate. Then there’s his popular tembleque and crema voltiada, which looks like, but is the opposite of flan.
As for what is featured in El Ceviche de Waldito’s restaurant, the ceviche and other delectable native gastronomical delicacies such as the papa a la Huacaina and picante de mariscos — a slightly spicy blend of sautéed seafood from crab, shrimp, octopus, calamari, tilapia and mussels — are not a buffet item, but are a part of the Peruvian menu, which Waldo is ready to prepare at a moment’s notice.
The papa de Hacaina rocks and some food critics have asked for bread to scoop and sop up the sauces because as they say, “It’s that good.”
Edmund Tijerina of the San Antonio Express-News wrote: There are so many versions and slight variations when it comes to making lomo saltado (stir-fried beef strips with onion and peppers tossed with French fries) that it’s worth trying several to get a sense of which version you prefer. All the more reason for trying more Peruvian cuisine and Chef Waldo serves as an excellent guide.”
The member of SA’s Club Social y Cultural Peruano is so enamored with cooking that he loves sharing the multifaceted cooking methods of his native country as much as he enjoys cooking those incredible dishes.
The fabulous multiple choice buffet, at a reasonable $6.99 is within anyone’s budget; and it includes a choice of pernil (roast pork), chicken, soup and salad plus a choice of white rice or the classic Puerto Rican/Cuban arroz con gandules, habichuelas guisadas (black beans), tostones (mashed and fried plantains), sweet plantains, hibiscus tea and dessert.
So to taste wonderful international flavors without traveling to the mountains of Perú, go to Waldito’s where you will get twice the quantity of other restaurants, but at half the price.
In the print medium, food reviews on Waldo’s savory, mouth-watering dishes that include photographs that make a person drool, have been featured in Flavor (San Antonio’s Ultimate Food Lover’s Guide) and San Antonio and Austin’s Wedding Guide Magazine. Waldo would also like to thank Richard Teitz at SA Current magazine, Amanda Lozano at La Prensa, Vladmir Ramírez at El Mundo de Austin and Chris Vásquez at The Helotes Echo to name just a few other publications.
No wonder this culinary star received a Medal for his selection as Chef of the Year at this year’s Alberto Alegre Awards, which were sponsored by Radio Digital 104.1 FM and in demand for television interviews.
Certificates, restaurant reviews and other accolades wallpaper two sides of his restaurant, so come out and find out what all the fuss is about and meet the showman chef whose backstage is the kitchen and his stage is behind the buffet bar or serving lots of hugs and banter on the floor
El Ceviche de Waldito is located outside Loop 410 and one block north of the CD Exchange at 5526 Evers Road.