- interview by Sara Gorelick
As the saying goes, "behind every great man there is a great woman." Heidi Merino, a member of the Liquid Chef team and wife of master mixologist Junior Merino, takes her place not behind but right next to her husband, and often steals the show with her warm personality. With a colorful background starting in Hawaii, Heidi has traveled the world studying culture, art, theater, food and drink. Her involvement in the Liquid Chef was a progression, starting when she was a ceviche chef at Rayuela, a line cook at Crema and working with Junior part time as an assistant. "When the Liquid Chef became more and more in demand, my husband needed more help," she said. "I decided that I would rather work beside him to support his dreams in making the Liquid Chef Inc a global company…which eventually became a reality."
Heidi met Junior almost ten years ago when she was bartending close to where they currently live in The Bronx. At the time, Junior was an entrepreneur with a DJ company that did a Mexican dance night at Heidi's restaurant. "I remember that on a Thursday night with amazing music blaring from the speakers and hundreds of college students dancing and drinking, Junior asked me for a cup of coffee!," she laughed. "I remembered thinking 'Who the hell drinks coffee on a Thursday night?' Heidi played hard to get for a few weeks, and finally was convinced by her co-worker to give it a try so they went dancing. "Eight months later, we were married."
Heidi found Junior to be her biggest supporter and inspired her to revere food. "Food is life," she said. "It should be respected, it should be treasured. It should be something that takes time to prepare and is prepared with love. We all love to eat, but I think that we should eat what we love and with whom we love."
Heidi spends her days in the kitchen and bar. Breakfast is usually something traditionally Mexican like Chiles Rellenos or Chorizo and Eggs (sometimes she will mix things up with French Toast and Bacon or Crab Cake Eggs Benedict). Dinner ranges from Japanese, Mexican, Italian, French, Latin or a combination of all. On event days, her mornings begin very early the previous day to gather ingredients, spirits, mixers, equipment, tolls, uniforms, etc, then 3-9 hours of prep for the day of the event.
For this young lady, she adores her job. "I wake up loving what we do and going to bed loving what we do. I am excited when people are calling me all day and asking for proposals, I love when people call to ask about who we are and what we do, and I am humbled by the praise that we get from amazing people all over the world."
Heidi's favorite cocktail that she created is the:Uva Star:
Put all ingredients into a mixing glass. Stir until well chilled. Pour contents into a rocks glass and garnish with micro orchids.
When Heidi is seated behind the bar, she enjoys new flavor combinations and trying different flavors. When all else fails, she can be seen sipping a glass of Viognier, Muscat or a nice Amarone. And when she isn't thinking about drinking, she loves to knit, needlepoint, embroider, crochet, lanyard, latch hook, make candles and write calligraphy. Heidi's words of advice? "Love what you do, pride yourself in your work, remain humble and remember that we are here to serve our guests. Without our guests, we would all be without a job!"