Pay attention and you can taste Johnny Curiel’s path to executive chef at Centro Mexican Kitchen through his menu. (See: the stewed lamb tacos, an edible memory of the birria tacos his family ate after church when he was a child.) The chef grew up in Guadalajara, moving to Breckenridge at age 12; he began washing dishes at his father’s restaurant when he was 14. At 18, he enrolled in a travel-focused culinary school in Mexico that took him to nearly every state in the country. After soaking up knowledge from abuelas and chefs alike, Curiel attended Escoffier Culinary School in Boulder and worked for Richard Sandoval and Troy Guard before landing at Centro, where he’s now cooking the regional dishes he fell for during his travels. Favorites include crispy whole sea bream with a brown-butter-infused tomatillo marinade—a dish Curiel tasted on the beaches of Nayarit—and a watercress- and pepita-based green mole that evokes the flavors of Oaxaca. “It’s traditional Mexican food through a Front Range filter,” Curiel says. “This is me.” 950 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-7771