For the past year, a small kitchen on Main Street in Louisville has been serving up some of the most dynamic and imaginative dishes in the metro area, and those who are familiar with Chef Michelle Alfaro’s metamorphic dishes have been lining up since day one. Chef Alfaro’s recent announcement that she has outgrown that location and hinted that she is moving, has had fans of everything from her signature Bang-Bang Shrimp Tacos to her Brown Sugar Bourbon Burger eagerly awaiting her next move. Sauced by Alfaro will be opening its new doors and flavor-packed kitchen in the heart of downtown Papillion, and Chef Alfaro is taking the next steps to fulfill her mission To Bring Joy to People Through Food in the community she has lived in for the past 14 years.
Slated to Open in Papillion on May 11th
Recently named Best New Restaurant by the Omaha Food Lovers, Sauced has made an indelible mark among Omaha area foodies in a short amount of time, and the timing couldn’t be better for Chef Alfaro’s evolution of her To-Go concept to now include dine-in and takeout. Sauced is slated to open its doors on May 11th, serving a limited menu of Chips, Salsa, and Queso as they settle in to the new location at 115 North Washington Street, next door to the popular Twisted Vine. It won’t be long before a full menu that will include the popular Guinness & Swiss, Cajun Mac & Cheese, Grilled Cheese with Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Tomato Bisque and many of your other favorites are available.
Papillion Mayor, David Black, is among those already lining up. “I was first introduced to Chelle when she was selling her homemade salsa at the Papillion Farmers Market, and she had just begun to sell her salsa at HyVee” he recalled. “I knew then that her story wasn’t over, and soon she was selling made-to-order meals and people loved it. It wasn’t long afterwards that she shared that she was opening her kitchen in Louisville, and I was so happy for her” Mayor Black said. “It was a great day when Chef Alfaro shared they were coming home to Papillion and what a wonderful story this is of someone following their life’s passion, and our community is better for it. Sauced by Alfaro, welcome home!” he added.
Chef Alfaro’s dream was ignited in those early salsa slinging days, inspired by her husband’s Mexican heritage and her mother in-law’s authentic Mexican recipes. “My mother-in-law holds a special place in my heart” Chef Alfaro said. “Throughout the last twenty years, she has spent hours in the kitchen teaching me authentic Mexican recipes. My salsa recipe was born from her teaching me the proper way to roast peppers and develop flavors. The love and care she has for her family is evident in her food.” She went on to say that Mama Dee never cuts corners when making tamales, chili rellenos, chili verde or menudo. “Her kitchen is filled with amazing aromas and family memories. She is one of a kind and without her I’d lack the true understanding of authentic Mexican cuisine and the amount of love required to nail it.”
It was a great day when Chef Alfaro shared they were coming home to Papillion. ~ Mayor David Black
Rural Nebraska Roots Drives Creativity
While her entrepreneurial fire may have initially been fueled by what is likely some of the best salsa to reach your taste-buds, her appreciation for creativity in the kitchen and unique flavor profiles started long ago when she was growing up in rural southeast Nebraska near Cook, a community of 300 people. “We didn’t have a lot growing up” Chef Alfaro said. “Growing up on a farm in a small rural community helped me develop a strong sense of appreciation for food.” Like many with similar rural roots, she recalled farmers in the fields from dusk until dawn, husking corn with her friends each summer. “But one of the most important lessons I learned
from our small farm was humility” she added. “When you don’t have much, you learn to appreciate what you do have, and quite often you find a new respect for what it takes to get it.”
The root of my appreciation for food lies deep in the roots on the farm. ~ Chef Alfaro
From finger-waves on rural country roads, to weeding Grandma’s enormous vegetable garden and tending to the horses, cattle, and chickens, rural Nebraska is at Chef Alfaro’s core. “The root of my appreciation for food lies deep in the roots on the farm” she said proudly. “As a young girl, I spent many hours in the kitchen with my Me-Maw” Chef Alfaro recalled fondly and describes her grandma’s gift as “Simply doing simple well”, making everything with a true appreciation for the ingredients. “She kept it simple, yet rustic, fresh, and delicious. She understood the depth of her ingredients, and through her senses she could touch food and know with confidence the dough was kneaded just enough. She smelled the vegetables and knew they were ripe. She saw the blessing of food through the eyes of a woman that lived through the depression and cherished every morsel that ever touched her plate. She knew food intimately and appreciated it thoroughly” she said. The influence her Me-Maw has engrained in Chef Alfaro is undeniable. “The standard of integrity I possess as a chef was seasoned by her throughout her lifetime, and I promise to bring that same standard to the plates of food served at Sauced by Alfaro.”
Unclear Path Was Recipe For Success
The path from farm to Chef wasn’t necessarily always a clear one for Michelle, and rather than pursuing culinary school, she went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the prestigious Villanova University and was working on her Ph.D. in Human Capital Management.
But working in Public Administration, she felt that there was more for her and pursuing her calling meant sacrificing stability, consistency of pay, days off, vacation, and sick time. Benefits that are foreign to many driven entrepreneurs. Her faith guided her to make the leap in 2018, leaving her job with the City of Omaha and beginning the journey that had started with salsa, and has since led her to Sauced by Alfaro. Early on, Proverbs 16:3 spoke to Michelle loud and clear. “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and He will establish your plans”, and commit, she did. “Surrendering my comfort in my job got uncomfortable quickly and I realized, when working for the Lord, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable to move in His ways, and boy were there times where it got really uncomfortable” she said. “But when that happens you look up, you thank God for the strength to get through, and when you are weak you look to the people God has blessed you with to remind you that you never put a period where God is putting a comma.”
She has experienced more than a few commas over the course of the last 5 years, persevering through thousands of jars of salsa, 100 hour-long work weeks, farmers markets, pop-us, hits and misses, changes in kitchen locations, and times when she felt like a failure. “Those were really hard times” she recalls. But she held firm in her faith and the understanding that all is in His timing, while remaining steadfast, leaning on the strength of her family, her community, and several local business leaders who never gave up on her.
A Twisted Partnership
With Sauced, Chef Alfaro has boldly put her stamp on the Metro area’s food scene and is fearless in her creative pursuit to put her own extraordinary spin on familiar dishes. Creativity and complex flavor profiles are her special gift and her talent for putting her own unique twist on what you think you know is the beauty of Sauced.
Her last weekend in Louisville was a clear indication of the public’s appetite for her award-winning creations, such as her Bang-Bang Shrimp Tacos. Once announced that she was going out with a bang, people came from near and far, selling out more than 600 tacos on Saturday, and that was just over lunch! If you’re not familiar yet with Sauced, you’ll soon want to be. Focusing primarily on To-Go services (think curbside pickup, or a food truck with no wheels), Sauced by Alfaro’s new location will be offering intimate dine-in options as well. Patrons of Twisted Vine next door will be able to order food from Sauced and within weeks a brand-new patio behind Sauced will adjoin the established Twisted Vine patio, allowing alcohol to be served outside. The downtown Papio vibe is getting a lot cooler just in time for warm summer nights.
The intimate interior of Sauced will include exclusive seating and an open kitchen concept, allowing diners and to-go customers the opportunity to see, hear, and smell exactly what’s going on. What they will be able to experience is how everything is done with such care, with every item that is prepared and goes out being touched by Chef Alfaro and her Sous Chef, Tara. Two women, busting out tickets with everything being absolutely fresh. Every Day. Every time. No exceptions. You will be hard-pressed to find gourmet comfort food like you will experience at Sauced.
“We have limitless creative freedom in our kitchen” Chef Alfaro said. “There are no boundaries for what we will try.” When listening to Chef Alfaro discuss her dishes and flavor profiles, you repeatedly hear her describe the complexities of layers and complimentary ingredients. She tells a story through flavor, and for those who know, well… they know. For those who are new to the story, prepare to be pulled in. Diners can be assured that they will be served the best versions of what they are ordering. Quality is evident in the details, whether the dish is simple, or complex. The beef is fresh and never, ever frozen. Made to order, fresh to order, every time and sourced locally from The Market in Louisville, which boasts an incomparable butcher counter.
“Sauced is a scratch kitchen that takes a new approach to traditional dishes. Chef Alfaro creates
seductive, seasonal plates while cultivating creations inspired by the ingredients. Limited only by
her own creativity, Chef Alfaro takes family recipes and passionately enhances them to achieve
her vision. Throughout the menu, you will find a dedication to freshness and originality with the
integration of Chef Alfaro’s favorite wines, whiskeys, and bourbons. Serving everyday food at an
elevated level to create food you know and love with a new personality. Chef Alfaro delivers
culturally and community-inspired dishes with her unique take on global cuisines.”
Chef Alfaro has not only caught the attention of a number of notable Chefs and Restaurateurs locally but has also received nods from the likes of celebrity Iron Chef, Cat Cora. Chef Cat Cora shattered the glass ceiling in a male-dominated culinary world, including in 2005, when she became the first female Iron Chef on Food Network’s wildly popular show, Iron Chef. Chef Cora went on to be the most successful chef in the show’s history with 11 Iron Chef titles.
“Chef Cat Cora sent words of encouragement to me when times were tough. In those moments she was so sweet and humble and took the time to acknowledge me.” Chef Alfaro recalled.
But whether it be celebrities, notable Chefs, her Me-Maw, or Mama Dee, the influence of her father is one that is most meaningful. “My dad influenced me more than he will ever know” she said. “I remember as a child, watching him work in the kitchen. It was uncommon at that time for dads to make dinner and all, but my dad did it proudly and with love. Like my other influences, he made everything from scratch and I knew from a young age the difference between real food and other food. It just tasted different. I remember tasting his food and putting my head back, eyes closed with an MMMMMM, that is so good, every time he cooked. I could taste the seasonings, the freshness, and smell the fragrance when he was cooking the onions and fresh garlic. My dad could make the simplest of ingredients shine and without realizing it, he was seasoning me on becoming the chef I am today.” Chef Alfaro’s dad is the inspiration behind one of her more unique dishes, BBQ Spaghetti. You read that right. From a time when she was young, and ingredients were sparse, her dad demonstrated his own creativity, and as she does with all of her creations, Chef Alfaro took that inspiration and made a familiar dish extraordinary. “I would encourage anyone who feels they haven’t hit the mark, that there is more for you and to keep moving forward” Chef Alfaro said. “When you know God is in control you can see it in action.”
Chef Alfaro’s mission at Sauced is To Bring Joy to People Through Food. “We want them to walk out of our restaurant, fully satisfied and full of joy. We love and pray for all of our customers. Even before opening, we’ve been praying in the restaurant asking God to use this
for His glory and not my own” she said earnestly. If you know Chef Michelle Alfaro, you know that she brings joy to anyone she encounters.
Sauced by Alfaro, Featured Menu Items
Omaha Food Lovers founder, Stacy Winters, is no stranger to what the Omaha metro area has to offer resident foodies. Winters says, “The Omaha metro area is lucky to have Chef Alfaro in our community. She is creating some of the most creative and flavorful dishes around. Her unique spin on the classics is ingenious. Michelle is easy to root for. She’s remained humble despite her success. She really is extremely appreciative of each and every customer who tries her food.
She is creating some of the most creative and flavorful dishes around. Her unique spin on the classics is ingenious. ~ Stacy Winters, Founder of Omaha Food Lovers.
Sauced by Alfaro is slated to open on May 11th and will be offering the following award-winning creations:
Bang Bang Brussels – Fried brussels sauced in our Thai Sweet Chili sauce, topped with a drizzle of bang bang sauce and Chef Alfaro’s roasted jalapeno crema, crispy onions, green scallions, and black sesame seeds.
Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos – A flour tortilla, puffed in oil and filled with fresh lettuce, cool purple slaw, and large hand-breaded shrimp. Topped with Chef Alfaro’s house-made bang bang sauce, green scallions, and black sesame seeds.
Brown Sugar Bourbon Burger – Toasted brioche bun with Chef Alfaro’s brown sugar bourbon sauce, peppery arugula, a 1/3 lb fresh all-beef patty that is NEVER frozen, with melted provolone and fontina cheese and crisp bacon. Topped with a bourbon onion tomato jam.
Cajun Mac & Cheese – A creamy blend of white cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, and Parmesan cheese with Cajun spices. red bell peppers, jumbo Cajun shrimp, buttery toasted breadcrumbs, and fresh parsley.
Crispy Cauliflower – Battered cauliflower, fried crisp, tossed in our Thai Sweet Chili with a drizzle of bang bang sauce and jalapeno crema, topped with cool purple slaw and black sesame seeds.
Grilled Cheese with Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Tomato Bisque – A parmesan crusted sourdough, served golden brown, melted Havarti cheese served with a cup of our house-made roasted red bell pepper tomato bisque.
Guinness & Swiss – An Irish Dip take on the classic French Dip. Guinness onions sauteed for over an hour, thinly sliced roast beef, melted Swiss cheese and served with our house-made Guinness Au Jus.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Wings – Crispy fried wings sauced in Chef Alfaro’s Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey Sauce with a drizzle of her house-made bourbon blackberry jam.
Puffy Banh Mi Tacos – A flour tortilla, puffed in oil and filled with fresh lettuce, honey sriracha pork, house-made pickled radish, and carrot with a green scallion crema.
Chef Alfaro and her team are working feverously to move, finish renovations and hire team members. We encourage you to follow her on Facebook to stay up to date on any changes on the opening, menu offerings, and hours of operation.
Sauced by Alfaro Address:
115 North Washington Street
Hours of Operation:
Wednesday 4-8, Thursday-Saturday 11:30-8
Written by: Christopher Slater of 316 Strategy Group
Photo credits: Nat Ogura of 316 Strategy Group