¡Ask a tortilla expert! How can my restaurant buy better tortillas?

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“If we’ve learned anything from this #TortillaTournament over the past five years, it’s that tortillas are everywhere,” says Gustavo Arellano. Photo by Shutterstock. Photo by Shutterstock.

Welcome to ¡Ask a Tortilla Tournament Judge!, the world’s premier column on all things tortilla. Each week throughout the 2022 Tortilla Tournament of Champions, judge Gustavo Arellano will take your most burning (but never burnt) tortilla questions. Grab your butter and salsa macha, because things are about to get caliente.

Q: Do you know when/where the (imho unholy) practice of steaming flour tortillas for burritos came from? That’s one thing that saddens me about our NorCal Mexican food — steamed tortillas everywhere.

Steamed tortillas? Are they at all like steamed hams? Although I would never dare steam flour tortillas — it would be disrespectful to my comal, after all — I can easily see why restaurants and home chefs would. For one, you can heat more at the same time — and time is money in the restaurant world. Also, some people don’t want any char whatsoever on their tortillas, which can make wrapping a burrito a shard-filled mess, so I can understand why folks would steam them — you want them to be as soft and pliable as possible. But given that Chipotle and its derivatives are everywhere, you can’t say steamed tortillas are just a NorCal-Mex thing anymore — just another reason to hate Chipotle!

Q: I’m consulting with a local breakfast and lunch restaurant in Southern California.  They are adding breakfast tacos and burritos to their morning menu. We love the tortillas at a local spot, but my clients do not want to make their own tortillas. Do you have any recommendations on where we can source a flour tortilla company that they can buy from directly? They don't want to use a generic tortilla company that they can buy from their local distributor. I appreciate any advice you can offer.

I’m not sure who are the distributors for your clients — is it evil Sysco? The far-better Ingardia Brothers? Nonstop visits to Restaurant Depot? But if we’ve learned anything from this #TortillaTournament over the past five years, it’s that tortillas are EVERYWHERE. Your client can hit up any number of local tortillerias for their restaurant needs, and there are bigger brands like Diana’s Mexican Food, Graciana Tortilla Factory, or Romero’s that make good tortillas and are not part of the GRUMA conspiracy. But don’t be surprised if a restaurant that makes its own tortillas won’t sell your client tortillas — why help the competition, you know? But it doesn’t hurt to ask!