Taste of the Highland Lakes: Oli’s Kitchen serves century-old family recipes

Chef Olivia Duran of Oli's Kitchen in Marble Falls

Chef Olivia Duran’s shrimp tacos are the signature dish at Oli’s Kitchen in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

CHEF AND OWNER: Olivia Duran

SIGNATURE DISH: Shrimp tacos

Olivia Duran was born to be a chef – literally. When her mother went into labor with her in their home south of Tamaulipas, Mexico, her father dashed out to borrow a pickup truck for the trip to the hospital. Upon his return, he found his daughter in her mother’s arms — in the kitchen.

The executive chef and owner of Oli’s Kitchen in Marble Falls laughed as she recalled the story. 

“Now, I have a passion for cooking,” said Duran, 45, a master chef of Mexican, Italian, and American cuisines. 

The oldest of five siblings, she grew up helping her mother and grandmother in the kitchen. By age 7, she had mastered her family’s century-old recipes, many of which can be found on her restaurant’s menu.  

Mixing her passion for food with joy, imagination, and an instinctive style, Duran inspired patrons’ palates in Oregon, Arkansas, and Mississippi before settling in the Highland Lakes, first in Round Mountain and now in Marble Falls.

Duran is particular about what goes into her recipes. She uses only the finest, organic ingredients. Many of her dishes are named after a family member, not because it’s their favorite but because she was thinking of them as she pulled together the ingredients. One dish, Jack’s Carne Asada, is named after a customer who always ordered that particular plate.

Shrimp tacos at Oli's Kitchen in Marble Falls
Dried guajillo pepper sauce is the special ingredient in the shrimp tacos at Oli’s Kitchen in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

She developed her signature dish — shrimp tacos — while trying to recreate a similar item from an upscale restaurant in downtown Chicago.

“I couldn’t imagine what made these three small shrimp tacos worth $21.99, so I had to try them myself,” she said. “I wasn’t disappointed.” 

The tacos were delicious, but something was missing. She discovered what it needed as she tested recipes: dried guajillo pepper sauce. 

“With the taste complete, I ran it as a daily special the next day,” Duran said. “It was an instant hit and has become a perennial favorite.”

Asked for one secret ingredient, Chef Duran answered with two: energy and passion.

“When you give good energy, everything comes to you,” she said. “What I also have is passion. Cooking is hard, but you do it from the heart.”

FOR A VISIT

Oli’s Kitchen is located at 205 Main St. in Marble Falls. For more information, contact 830-825-3888 or chefoli@olis.kitchen or visit olis.kitchen or its Facebook page @chefoli.

Highland Lakes Eat & Drink Guide

Find more great places to eat and drink in the Highland Lakes at 101HighlandLakes.com.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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