Photos by Victoria Edstedt
You would never guess that Francis Schneeweiss started Volcan Azul, an authentic Mexican food catering business. Fair skin, blue eyes and red hair are not associated with cheesy quesadillas, flavorful fajitas, or America’s favorite food: tacos. But don’t let looks fool you. She’s cooking up the wondrous and breaking stereotypes of what Mexican cuisine has to offer.
Schneeweiss’ story is a blend of cultures, religions and tastes. She is Jewish of Eastern-European descent and grew up in Mexico City. At 16, she moved to Dallas, Texas, and taught Christian ed. She describes her early years in the U.S. as a “difficult time.” While coping with change, Schneeweiss was put in an ESL (English Second Language) class where other immigrant children befriended her. “Even back then I loved cooking and going to their houses to learn more,” she says.
Schneeweiss was exposed to Chinese, Arabic, Greek and other world kitchens. “I was also working for a Lebanese guy,” she says, “I made and I sold falafel. Then I graduated.” When she finished college, Schneeweiss went into teaching, her life’s career. “I always wanted to be a cook, be a chef,” she said, “I didn’t go to culinary art school, but I have a lot of recipes from my family, from growing up in Mexico and from street vendors.”
Heeding her calling, she still had to find an area to specialize in. “I am trying to stay conscious about nutritional value while reaching the flavor,” Schneeweiss says, so she uses Native American corn sourced blue corn tortillas. “They [the tortillas] are totally organic. They have water, salt and blue corn.”
“I buy everything locally,” Schneeweiss said about her ingredients. “Everything is locally grown here, in Colorado. Some are from Mexico, like poblano peppers, calabacitas, the nopales when they are in sea- son.” She makes it a point to support small businesses over corporations.
Besides remarkable quality, the menu in Volcan Azul is adaptable to many dietary needs. “I am very flexible,” Schneeweiss says. She offers vegetarian, gluten-free, Kosher and dairy-free options. “Quesadillas have to have cheese, so instead I can make tacos. I can make mole – it combines chilli, at least 4 types of chillies, and it also has bread.”
Another feature many people like is on site serving. “I go to the event and I don’t just put the food out and leave,” Schneeweiss said. She stays and cooks in front of guests, creating a fresh, delicious experience.
Right now Volcan Azul is looking for a food truck and opportunities to work with breweries so they could bring on artisan spirits. There are also talks about throwing a dance party for real foodies. “I have a friend who teaches dance movement, so we want to come up with an event that is a little bit of cooking and dancing,” Schneeweiss said.
While you are getting ready and practicing your best dance moves, try this Nopalitos (Cactus Stew) variation that Schneeweiss enjoys to cook. It’s perfect for February’s unpredictable weather.