The History of Masala y Maiz

Norma y Saqib shortly after the restaurant was shut down in April 2018.

Masala y Maiz has always been an adventure. Slated to open in September 2017, the restaurant was delayed when a major earthquake hit Mexico on September 19th, just a few days before the opening date. Instead of opening, the chefs worked with their friends and family to turn the restaurant into a community kitchen and served 800 hot, nutritious and free meals every day throughout Mexico City for the first month. As things settled in the city, Chefs Norma & Saqib slowly opened Masala y Maiz as a simple & affordable comida corrida before moving to their full format once the city got back on its feet. 

Hot oat porridge with homemade compote. Part of a breakfast delivery getting ready to go out to sites across the city in the days after the earthquake. Masala y Maiz cooked & delivered 400 hot breakfasts and 400 hot dinners daily for a month after the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City.

After a few months of operating successfully and gaining traction in this famously gastronomic city, the restaurant was suddenly shut down. On the morning of Tuesday April 10, 2018 “officials” showed up at the restaurant’s doors and threatened to close the business. There was no justification and no warning. They said they were sent. The “officials” were here for a bribe. If we didn’t pay they were going to shut us down immediately. 

Chefs Norma & Saqib were always vocally committed to not giving into the culture of bribes and refused to pay. The restaurant was shut down that morning. What was supposed to be a 1 week closure turned into a 6 month fight against corruption and to reopen Masala y Maiz without paying bribes. 

The closure of Masala y Maiz became public and as people found out about the refusal to pay bribes, the response was powerful, supportive and uplifting. Some of the best chefs and restaurants in the country reached out to support. Masala y Maiz went into exile and started doing collaborations and pop ups with Chefs like Eduardo Garcia, Enrique Olvera, Joaquin Cardoso, Scarlett Lindeman, Mercedes Bernal & Rodney Cuisic. Famed chinamperos Yolcan invited the team to do a fundraising meal at their Chinampa del Sol in Xochimilco. Cafe Buna sold the Masala y Maiz chai and in big letters on their window they wrote that the chai was made with “Tears from our corrupt enemies!” Chefs & supporters from across the US donated money to a crowdfunding campaign to help in the fight. 

With the support of countless allies, chefs, farmers, friends & family, Masala y Maiz held out without paying bribes and won the fabricated case against the restaurant. On September 10, 2018, Masala y Maiz reopened for regular service.

In a few short weeks, Masala y Maiz is getting ready to start a new adventure in their new restaurant home in Colonia Juarez. The restaurant will be moving and will be joined by a natural wine shop called MUST. The restaurant will be opening in the new location in mid September 2019.

Stay Tuned…..


A few flyers from our exile meal series created by Manuel Bueno of Macolen printshop.