Since ‘mami’ also usually means ‘head chef’ at home, the challenge to create fresh menus for the family that are both dynamic and authentic, is an everyday culinary feat. To get a breakdown of the basics, we checked in with chef Ronny Abenaim, who has worked with nationally acclaim eateries and chefs—Mario Batali, Eric Ripert, Jonathan Waxman and Andre Balazs’ Hotels—who today owns and runs Leña Latin Grill in Midtown Manhattan. As he put it, “Latin America is a very diverse area that holds various cuisines that vary from place to place, but something they all have in common is how simple ingredients together make very flavorful dishes, especially in the tropical areas where the ingredients are so exotic. Another common aspect is the time, love and soul they put into the food and cooking. It makes everything taste like home.” By looking at some of the basic elements of the Latin kitchen, we can build vibrant and nutritious menus that evoke the flavor profiles of our ancestral cuisine. Our questions for Chef Ronny were simple: What are the easiest ways to keep our kitchens and menus effortlessly healthy and Latin? What are some key Latin spices and herbs to always keep around; and what are they best used for? What is the secret of a solid guizo? And for the love of God…how do you make a perfect rice?