Carmen Rocha, Waitress Who Introduced USA to Nachos, Is Dead at 77

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Carmen Rocha, a well known employee El Cholo Mexican restaurant in LA has passed away. The waitress, who started working at the restaurant in 1959, gained notoriety for a dish she would make for her favorite customers. Following a recipe she had picked up back in her hometown of San Antonio, TX, Rocha would layer tortilla wedges, cheddar cheese and jalapeno slices and serve them up as a special treat for her favorite customers. Before long, the dish became so popular that the Salisbury family (owners of El Cholo) added it onto their menu. And voilà, nachos were born!

"Carmen Rocha introduced an iconic dish and helped popularize it," notes Merrill Shindler, who wrote "El Cholo Cookbook: Recipes and Lore From California's Best Loved Mexican Kitchen".

El Cholo is a longstanding community institution in Los Angeles and many of the customers recalled the waitress fondly. Famous actor Jack Nicholson even weighed in on her passing, "Carmen was wonderful, to me and to everybody," said Nicholson, a longtime regular at El Cholo, adding, "It's a community loss."

Rocha worked at El Cholo for nearly 40 years and was well loved and respected. Although she retired back in 1990, the restaurant lounge was renamed "Carmen's Cantina" in her honor. "She was a very loving person," said Linda Mendez, a waitress and longtime friend of Rocha. "People came to Carmen and asked her advice, even her customers did. You could talk to her."

Check out this recipe for a twist on the traditional Nachos recipe and let us know what you think!

1 (14.5 ounce) package tortilla chips
1 cup sharp shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, sliced
1 can vegetarian refried beans
2 green onions, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped

Preparation
Layer tortilla chips in a large, oven safe platter, alternating between layers of chips, shredded cheese and refried beans. Top with chopped tomatoes, sliced onions and jalapeños and back in oven until cheese bubbles. Yummy!

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About this author

Mariela Rosario,

I'm a raging opinionista and I love to share my ramblings on everything from pop culture to food to stuff that makes me laugh & cry! I've worked in all types of media (TV, film, print) and was previously the online editor at Latina magazine before joining Mamás Latinas. On most nights you can find me working my way through my library of cookbooks or playing with my puppy Lola (my only child so far). I have a wonderful hubby who shares my passion for any and all kinds of travel. Together, we've formed a semi-professional wine drinking team.

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