What We’re Reading
By THE NEW YORK TIMES , March 2011
A collection of links by the reporters and editors of the dining section. Jeff Gordinier selected:
Lamorinda Patch: Meet Elroy Motta, California barber and impassioned chorizo entrepreneur.
Moraga's Top Scissor Man Is Also a Chorizo King
By Lou Fancher
If Elroy Motta had a barbershop quartet in his Moraga Barber Shop, they’d be able to sing, stay trimmed, and get their supper all in one place.
That’s because Motta, who grew up eating sausage amidst Spanish and Portuguese immigrants in his San Leandro neighborhood during the 1950's, has created Motta: Spanish Brand Chorizo.
“Good thing I answered the ad this place ran for a barber 20 years ago. It’s been so helpful to me with my sausages,” he said, snipping and combing a long-time customer’s hair without pause. Before landing in Moraga he was a hair dresser, restaurant owner, and he ran a carpet cleaning business that was "killing my back,” he said, but always in the back of his mind was the great food of his childhood.
Motta has spent more than 15 years developing and researching his recipe for chorizo, the traditional latin blend of pork shoulder and spices that define regions and whole neighborhoods. When a local chorizo merchant died and his widow refused to share the secret recipe and closed the business, Motta knew he had to be direct if he was going to recreate the famous flavor.
“I went over to her house and asked for the recipe," he said. "To everyone’s surprise, she gave it to me!”
It doesn’t surprise the devoted clients who come to Motta for a trim. They count him as a friend. Many have even signed on to help him market the sausages.
Stu Scherr, a well-known specialty foods broker, is promoting the product. John Onoda, a former newspaper reporter, is serving as a PR consultant. And Terry Landers, along with just about every other person who crosses the barber shop’s threshold, are Motta’s unofficial taste testers.
“I ate several pounds of it, before my wife took over,” admitted Landers, with a satisfied grin.
Motta had to modify some of the ingredients to match the taste he remembers from his childhood. The sausage is manufactured by Silva Sausage Company in Gilroy with pork shoulders (“no by-products,” Motta emphasized), red wine, and spices he holds secret.
“I believe it’s close to the original — and wonderful!” he exclaimed.
Local stores are taking notice and Motta Chorizo is now sold at Lunardi’s, The Molly Stone Marketsand the Draeger’s in Blackhawk.
“I thought it would be easy to sell, but it has been harder, a lot harder, than I was expecting,” Motta said. “Once you sell it to stores, you have to sell it to customers, so I’ve been doing lots of (in-store) demonstrations.”
Motta named the sausage after his father and each package comes with Poppa Motta’s picture and the promise of true, traditional, Spanish/Portuguese flavor.
With no plans to retire his sheers or razor, Motta offered to take his employees to lunch before the afternoon rush. It was easy to guess what would top the menu.