Meet the Chef: David Ascencio

David Ascencio works as a cook at Pop's Deli while he studies mechanical engineering.

Photo by Michael Donahue // Buy this photo

David Ascencio works as a cook at Pop's Deli while he studies mechanical engineering.

Title: Cook at Pop's Deli.

Age: 20.

Hometown: Los Angeles.

Who or what was your first cooking influence? My dad taught me how to cook a little bit. His mom taught him how to cook. And Pop (Imad Ismail) showed me some of his stuff.

What was the first thing you ever cooked or baked? Cheesecake. Probably about 11 or 12. My mom makes cheesecake for Thanksgiving, and I helped her out, and she showed me how to do it. It was good. Just a little bit crispy.

When did you decide to become a cook? Pop ... told me I could come over here and help him out while I'm in school. I'm in school for mechanical engineering.

Have you ever created something in the kitchen?I made a Philly (cheesesteak), my style. I grilled it with tomatoes, jalapeños, grilled onions, bell peppers, and I put an extra bit of seasoning, pepper jack cheese, American cheese, and it was good.

What do you cook at home, if anything? I live with my parents. I do cook every once in a while. I can make spaghetti, meatloaf. My parents are originally from El Salvador. I know how to make several Salvadoran dishes.

What is your favorite food? Pupusas. It's a Salvadoran dish. It's a flour tortilla with corn, beans and rice in it. And it's served with pickled cabbage and salsa.

What is your least favorite food? I actually used to be real picky when I was growing up. Once I started cooking, all of a sudden the food started tasting very different. ... So I like everything, really.

Pop's Deli is at 6755 E. Shelby Drive; (901) 366-3463.

Michael Donahue: (901) 529-2797; donahue@commercialappeal.com

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