At Molé, Chef-Owner Fredy Martinez Introduces Diners to Mole Sauce and Other Classic Southern Mexican Dishes He Grew Up With | Food & Kitchen | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest
NOTam one of the 50 states, and chances are chef Fredy Martinez was there to open or work at a restaurant: Claim Jumper in Minnesota, Chevy’s Fresh Mex in Arizona, a Tri-Cities steakhouse called Fredy’s, which he co-owned. In Spokane, Martinez helped open QQ Sushi & Kitchen, Nudo Ramen, Wasabi Asian Bistro, and Umi Kitchen & Sushi Bar before opening Mole Restaurant in Kendall Yards with Umi’s chef-owner Tong Liu.
Along the way, Martinez learned to love all kinds of food, including Italian, Chinese, and Thai. He has a soft spot for Oaxacan food, like the one he grew up with in Cuilapam, Mexico, where as a young man he learned to cook out of necessity. (It’s pronounced “wah-HAH-can.”)
“My parents divorced when I was young,” says Martinez. “They made me cook.”
Given the choice, Martinez would have preferred to play football or dream of becoming a firefighter or joining the military. But after a horrific car accident as a teenager, her life changed dramatically.
“I almost died,” Martinez says. “It took me years to get over it and after that it wasn’t the same.”
With fewer career options available to him in Mexico, Martinez decided to take everything he learned watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen and move to Spokane, where his brother lived. . Although he took courses in voluntary firefighting, he felt more attracted to the culinary industry and began to build a career as a chef.
“In the end, you know, I love what I do,” Martinez said.
He is especially excited to bring food from Oaxaca to the Interior Northwest. Mole Restaurant is Martinez’s — and Spokane’s — first restaurant in Oaxaca, and introduces diners to mole, a thick, savory sauce that gets its coloring from chili peppers and other complex assortments of ingredients.
Every town has its own variation of mole, Martinez says, listing the six types he’s most familiar with: negro (black), rojo (red), amarillo (yellow), verde (green), estofado (a kind of stew ) and coloradito.
Making mole is labor intensive with over 20-30 ingredients, so if Martinez had to make it at home, he would do it in large quantities.
“If you have a mole today, you have a mole tonight, tomorrow. Sometimes three to four days.”
More generally, however, Martinez cooks a simpler meal at home for himself, his wife and children. Black beans over eggs with Oaxacan string cheese. Or memelas, similar to what’s served at restaurants: rustic grilled tortillas with a kind of pork lard called asiento, topped with queso fresco and salsa, and sometimes meat or black bean paste.
“Some of my friends say, ‘You own a restaurant and you can eat whatever you want,’ but I don’t think that way,” Martinez said. “I like very simple things.”