2018 Talent

Daniel Brooks

Chef & Owner, Licha's Cantina

Raised in Mexico City, Daniel Brooks learned what ‘soul food’ was while sitting in his abuelita’s kitchen. He always knew he wanted to recreate the flavors of Mexico through his own restaurant, and when offered the opportunity to take over a little east Austin bungalow, Licha’s Cantina came to be. Focusing on interior Mexican cuisine, the menu at Licha’s is infused with the tastes, colors, and spices of Brooks’ roots. Named after his mother, Licha’s Cantina, keeps true to a family-oriented ambiance and experience. “Mi casa es tu casa!” is frequently heard and encouraged inside of the casita.

Licha’s opened its doors in 2014 and has since become an Austin staple for interior Mexican food and distilled agave spirits. A cozy little nook right on east sixth street, with a tequila, mescal, and cocktail list as expansive as it’s gluten-free options, and it’s funky, ‘pachanga’-feel vibes, the cantina is popular for all types of occasion. Brooks and the “Licha’s fam,” a.k.a. Licha’s staff, often visit the now-famous agave farms in Oaxaca, Mexico to stay current on the latest products and trends in the industry. Note that these trips wouldn’t be complete without stopping at each of the Tres Marias taco posts along the way.

Brooks is a longtime restauranteur, having opened his first restaurant at the age of 24 in San Antonio, TX. His experience up until that moment included back-of-the house, front-of-the house, and everything in between. Of those early days he says, “I did everything you shouldn’t do. I consider the money I invested as the equivalent to my college education.” Taking with him the lessons he learned from that initial venture, Brooks made his way to Austin in 2006 and continued his career as General Manager for the ever-classic, Vespaio Ristorante on South Congress Avenue. Under the wing of co-owner, Claude Benayoun, Brooks operated the cool, casual, upscale Italian restaurant for 8 years until making his own mark with Licha’s Cantina. Known as “El Chingon”, Brooks brings Mexico City to east Austin through the flavors, sounds, and feels at Licha’s.