By: Carol Beck-Round | Category: Other | Issue: June 2013
El Banquete Mexican Grille will open this summer, offering authentic upscale Mexican cuisine in the old Pepper’s Grill. Pictured from left: Andres Bravo, co-owner, and Chef Armando Cobian.
Claremore and the surrounding area is in for a treat when the doors of El Banquete Mexican Grille open this summer in the former Pepper’s Grill, located at 1331 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
What will set El Banquete Mexican Grille apart from other area restaurants offering Mexican cuisine? “The first thing that sets us apart,” says Chef Armando Cobian, “will be the food and menu selection. El Banquete Mexican Grille will also be more upscale.”
According to Chef Cobian, most restaurants offering Mexican fare use two different sauces for over 150 dishes, whether it is chicken or steak. “Our food is different, with each dish having its own signature sauce.”
On the new restaurant menu will be salads and desserts that “have never before been seen in this town,” says Cobian who has 22 years experience as a chef. “This is a new style of Mexican cooking but is authentic,” says the Mexico native who moved to the United States when he was 15 years old.
Cobian’s career as a chef started at a Mexican restaurant in Chicago. However, it wasn’t authentic Mexican fare, so he moved on, pursuing his passion for good food and eventually attending the Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago, where he graduated in 1999. His training and background led him to various states, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Washington D.C., where he helped 42 restaurants revamp their menus to reflect finer dining and original Mexican cuisine.
So how did Chef Armando Cobian, who has also cooked for President Obama before he reached the White House, end up in northeastern Oklahoma? A mutual friend connected Cobian with local restaurateur Jose Bravo, who began remodeling the former Pepper’s Grill earlier this year. Bravo was looking to add new and more authentic dishes to the menu and make the restaurant different from others in the area. “I wanted a different concept,” says Bravo.
Cobain flew to Oklahoma to meet with Bravo and agreed to assist him in planning the menu for El Banquete. Cobian will be training the chefs at the new restaurant, not only in Claremore, but also at Bravo’s new restaurant in Tulsa and one in the state of Kansas. “They will be trained to prepare these new authentic dishes,” he adds. “I will also be checking each restaurant for quality as well as keeping the menus up-to-date,” says Cobian, who retreats each year to his home in Mexico to try out new dishes.
The atmosphere, according to Cobian, will also be different from other Mexican restaurants. “Although the lunch crowd will still be able to get their food in a timely manner so they can return to work, the dinner crowd will find a more relaxed atmosphere with dinner and drinks,” he says. “I have a recipe for a cucumber and watermelon margarita that is made fresh,” he adds. “There are no additives and no chemicals in the drink.”
Cobian promises a menu of choices to surprise everyone, including seafood dishes like Camarones al mojo de ajo, a shrimp and sweet roasted garlic dish, and pasta dishes with a Mexican flair. “We will also offer at least a dozen different salsas,” he says, “as well as desserts like cheesecake wrapped in a crispy flour tortilla and garnished with mango, green apple tarts with vanilla ice cream, fried ice cream and traditional flan.”
The restaurant will seat between 150 and 160 people and will include a separate dining room for private parties. In addition, an outdoor area is under construction for those who prefer patio dining, which will add another 25 to 30 seats.
El Banquete Mexican Grille is a very different concept for Claremore, he explains. “Although we will be upscale with authentic Mexican food, the prices are affordable,” says Cobian, “And the food will always be fresh.”
After 30 years in public school education, Carol Round retired and moved from Grand Lake to Claremore, Oklahoma in 2005, where she writes a weekly faith-based column which runs in 14 Oklahoma newspapers as well as several national and international publications. Three volumes of her columns have been compiled into collections: A Matter of Faith, Faith Matters and by FAITH alone. She has also written Journaling with Jesus: How to Draw Closer to God and a companion workbook, The 40-Day Challenge. This past year she has written three children’s books, a series called Nana’s 3 Jars, to teach children about the value of giving, saving and spending money. All of Carol’s books are available through Amazon. In addition to writing her weekly column, authoring books and speaking to women’s groups, she writes for Value News. She also blogs regularly at www.carolaround.com. When she is not writing or speaking, she loves spending time with her three grandchildren, working in her flowerbeds, shooting photos, volunteering at her church or going on mission trips overseas, and hiking. She is also an avid reader and loves working crosswords and trying to solve Sudoku puzzles.