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Caesar salad centennial celebration planned in its birthplace, Tijuana

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Caesar salad. KPBS reporter Katie Anastas says chef's are celebrating with a festival, book launch, and galas.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Caesar salad. And while its name might make you think of a Roman emperor, the Caesar salad has its origins in Tijuana.

“Caesar Cardini is the creator of the salad, and he came to Tijuana when Prohibition started in the United States,” said Chef Javier Plascencia. “He came with his brother and opened Caesar’s restaurant, and that’s where they created this wonderful recipe.”

Plascencia and his family now run that restaurant. On their website, they also mention Livio Santini, Cardini’s chef when the Caesar salad was invented.


“We make about 2,500 salads a week, each one made tableside,” Plascencia said.

Today, you can find Caesar salad in restaurants across the world: romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons and a dressing made with lemon or lime juice, anchovies, Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Chefs from around the region are joining Plascencia to celebrate the salad’s centennial in Tijuana next month. Festivities include gala dinners and the launch of a cookbook celebrating the salad’s history.

Chef Claudette Zepeda is helping make one of the dinners. She said she’s proud that Mexico is the birthplace of a globally beloved dish.

“Like the Caesar salad has traveled around the world, so have I. I see it everywhere I go, and it’s such a pride point for me,” she said. “It’s beautiful for people to know not only does the Caesar salad come from Mexico, from Tijuana, Baja California, but it comes from the people that made Mexico home.”


Zepeda said getting the dressing right is key. Plascencia uses a mix of regular olive oil and extra virgin olive oil – if you only use extra virgin olive oil, it will taste too bitter. And if you don’t use enough oil?

“If you over-whip it, it turns into an aioli, because the ingredients are there,” she said. “It should not be mayo-y, it should be runny. It should be well dressed, not just tossed. It should kind of drip off your hand.”

Off your hand, she said, because that’s how a Caesar salad should be eaten — with your hands.

The centennial celebration concludes with a festival in Tijuana on July 7. A portion of the event’s proceeds go to the Tijuana Without Hunger Foundation.