BOCA Tacos’s Chef Maria Mazon wins ‘Restaurant Wars’ challenge on Top Chef

May 21, 2021
By Matt Sterner

"We performed and it was beautiful."

It’s one of those episodes in a series that really allows the chefs to shine because of the opportunities it brings to the table. Some say it’s the most iconic challenges in reality television, and it’s for sure the most essential episode of “Top Chef: Portland.”

Episode eight, named “War Games” AKA “Restaurant Wars”, definitely had its drama but BOCA Tacos y Tequila‘s chef Maria Mazon came out on top — winning the challenge with Team Kokoson.

Photo by Stephanie Diani/Bravo

In Mazon’s opinion, coming out on top in the “Restaurant Wars” episode is quintessential.

“In my humble opinion,” said Mazon,” And not because I won it, but once you get there you can feel relaxed per se because it’s such a big deal for chefs, and for some of us, restaurant owners. I mean, it’s amazing. You can walk the walk and talk the talk.”

In the episode, the chefs were given the task to host a seven-course chef’s table tasting menu for all of the season’s All-Star judges. The teams were chosen “Portland-style,” which was by the flip of a coin.

Top Chef: Portland
Photo by David Moir/Bravo

“I was with Shota, Byron, and my lovely friend, Jamie,” said Mazon. “We just clicked, you know? We might have big personalities, we might be loud, but we communicate super well. We did justice to our heritage, and I think it shows. It was like one brain, eight arms, and as corny as it may sound, one heart.”

Some of the highlights of the episode include a Japanese Eggplant with sesame mole and ham furikake, crafted by both Shota and Mazon — something the judges really loved. Mazon also served a Lengua Sando with a dipping broth.

The judges also took a moment to give props to Mazon for “being hospitable and warm.”

In the end, the judges were more than pleased with all four members in Team Kokoson, but the food aficionados chose chef Mazon as the overall winner of the competition. In Mazon’s words, and while trying her best not to get too emotional, the heart and soul of the team is what allowed them to prevail.

“Our restaurant concept ‘Kokoson’ says it all,” said Mazon. “The word ‘kokoro’ means ‘heart’ in Japanese and then in Español it’s corazón. So, we merged those two words and it literally showed that we cook from our hearts. I don’t think it’s luck. I think it was the way we performed and it was beautiful.”

We’re more than halfway through the season now and Mazon is thrilled for viewers to watch the remainder of Top Chef: Portland.

“We’re gonna continue having fun,” said Mazon. “We’re gonna keep cooking and each chef’s style of cuisine is going to come out more and more. I’m having so much fun watching me. I didn’t know that I say so much stupid stuff, but I’m enjoying it. It will always be an opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m trying to soak it all in.”

BOCA Tacos y Tequila is located at 533 N. Fourth Ave. For more information on the menu, hours, and more, visit

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