A home taco bar can often lack the exciting variety of a local taqueria’s salsa bar, a rainbow of red, green and yellow salsas ranging from mild to extremely spicy. Chris Chapman, owner of pop-up Tacos Everywhere, has set out to change that: Every month, Chapman offers three seasonal “Californian” salsas, available to order through the @tacoseverywheresf Instagram account. In addition to his rotating seasonal selections, his mainstay salsa, the salsa negra, is available to order year-round.
Chapman has always been drawn to the community aspect of the food industry, paying close attention to the journey of a dish: from the farmer that grew the produce to the dish’s final iteration, Chapman values transparency in every step. After a handful of jobs in restaurant kitchens (SHED in Healdsburg and Camino in Oakland, to name a few), Chapman eventually joined grocery delivery company Good Eggs as head chef of their culinary program. While Chapman was writing recipes and creating meal kits, he spent an extensive amount of time developing sauces. “[The sauces] became a bit of the signature move for the meal kit recipes. It was one of the most effective ways we could encourage weeknight cooking.”
Chapman had been working as a freelance chef for catering and private events when the pandemic hit. Like many others, the shelter-in-place ordinance meant cooking three meals a day almost every day of the week: “There’s no way I could have gotten through that without the multitude of sauces I was making at work for clients and refining recipes with. Cooking at home became more and more of an important way to stay sane for many of us, and the sauces or salsas I was making at work were kind of essential to helping get to the finish line.”
Chapman’s salsas are a true vision of his palpable passion for the food-community connection. Chapman hand-picks dozens of chile varieties to use in his salsas, and partners closely with other trusted farms to provide him with fresh, seasonal ingredients, making sure to list each farm and vendor on his jars of salsa. “I’ve found so much reward in establishing connections for both the agricultural ingredients, but also understanding the homework on things like the safest neutral oil for the salsas, or where the pepitas come from,” Chapman says. “It’s now the job of the chef to be the gatekeeper on ingredients. I don’t believe you can be successful if you’re neglecting that job.”
Despite being shelf-stable (Chapman’s salsas will last for months when stored properly in the refrigerator after opening), Chapman’s salsas taste fresh: One of his February offerings, the Meyer-Serrano, is a beautiful, almost neon, yellow-green salsa that is beautifully tart from preserved Meyer lemons, with a pleasant undertone of heat from the Serrano chilies. To highlight the delicate sour flavor of Persian limes, Chapman pickled thin slices of fennel with a habanero chile for his Fennel-Habanero-Lime salsa, a unique and spicy alternative to the pickled onions often served with tacos. Even his salsa negra, inspired by Cala founder Gabriela Cámara, still manages to taste refreshing due to the balance between mesquite-smoked chipotles and sweet avocado blossom honey. The result is a dense, almost fudge-like salsa that Chapman recommends not only on tacos, but also as a topping for congee, or even a marinade for steak.
“I think the application of salsas should be just as creative as their development. The word ‘salsa’ shouldn’t limit our thinking to tacos and chips,” Chapman remarks. “I’m proud to make salsas that assist for all sorts of cuisines from across the globe. One of the main reasons I’ve always landed on chilies as a primary ingredient to focus on is their extensive and unique prominence in just about every culture around the world at this point.”
Chapman has enough preserved chilies for 18 more salsas, or six more months, of seasonal salsas. As for the future of Tacos Everywhere, Chapman says that for the time being, he’s happy with coordinating sales through Instagram, which seems perfectly in line with his focus of truly connecting with the community, from farmers to diners. “I certainly have lofty fantasies like the rest of us, but I’m trying to stay grounded, practical and focused during the Year of the Ox. I’m confident that as long as we have good intentions to start, we’ll also find the right ones to follow through on.”
Tacos Everywhere salsas are available to order via Instagram DM and includes delivery. For individual jars, prices range from $9.00 - $12.00, or they can be bought in a set of three for $30-35. The February menu is available through Sunday, February 28th, with new seasonal salsas starting on Monday, March 1st.