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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEntertainment | Restaurants & Dining 

Mexico Mourns the Passing of 'The Godfather of Birria'

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March 2, 2016

Served in traditional clay plates, the birria is accompanied by a bowl of hot consommé made from meat juice and tomatoes, plus freshly made corn tortillas and frijoles topped with melted queso asadero.

Guadalajara, Mexico - The western Mexican state of Jalisco lost one of its most beloved culinary figures last month when Javier Torres Ruiz, better known as "El Chololo," died of a heart attack at the age of 74.

Torres, who dedicated his life to making birria, a goat or mutton stew considered one of Jalisco's most emblematic dishes, ran two restaurants, both called El Chololo, that are often recognized as the best birrierias in the state.

His death on February 16 provoked an outpouring of public grief, with both restaurants shutting down for three days of mourning. "All our clients were really sad. Many expressed their condolences and there were some who cried. People really cared for him," Torres' niece, María Josefina Caminos Torres, told me days later.

Having served many Mexican officials over the years, Torres was also mourned in political circles. A host of politicians, including the Jalisco governor and the mayor of Guadalajara, the state capital, all tweeted their condolences to his family.

"He used to help a lot of people. If one of his regular clients lost a close family member, he would often help pay for the funeral," noted his nephew, Hugo Israel Caminos Torres. "He also helped a lot of local merchants through a local labor union and he served two or three times as a municipal councilor."

Discussing his uncle's legacy at the older El Chololo branch in Guadalajara's working-class Tlaquepaque district, Caminos told me the closely guarded family recipe dates back approximately 100 years: "My grandfather Isidoro Torres Hernández used to sell birria from a stall in the Tlaquepaque market. He started from the bottom but thanks to God he knew how to take care of the business and keep his recipe secret."

His uncle, Caminos recalled, used to say he was born on a plate of birria, and he sold his first batch at the age of 12. "So when my grandfather died my uncle carried on the tradition. Everyone called him Chololo, a derivative of my grandfather's name," Caminos added. "He used to sell by the side of the road in Tlaquepaque. He'd carry all his ingredients and even his oven on his bicycle each day. Then he started renting a room in this neighborhood, and eventually he bought the place, and that's when the first El Chololo restaurant was born."