MONTHLY INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Hear from industry leaders about their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. Learn more about the people behind the foods and dishes you know and love - and others you SHOULD know and love. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.
August 2019 Edition
What are some of the most influential skills you developed while growing up in Argentina? Was there a heavy focus on food in your family?
I never worked in a restaurant in Buenos Aires, but there is a food tradition in Argentina that is call “Asado,” which is a process of grilling meats, but also becomes a whole day event. The family would get together every Sunday to make everything from pickled foods, cheeses, empanadas and sausages. As you can imagine, everything was very hands on and you learn a few things along the way.
Your Cuban influence has proven to be successful in the culinary world with fusions of Latino and American flavors. What are your favorite cuisines to work with? Are there specific flavors that you love experimenting with?
Before cooking Cuban cuisine, I had a huge influence from Nuevo Latino cuisine, and I was able to change and influence the produce market in Philadelphia. I was also able to write the first cookbook in history about the single subject of ceviche cooking. To this day, I like to use any type of seafood in my recipes and love the flavors of different peppers (spicy, sweet, smoked or pickled).
When did you know you wanted to be a Chef? Was there an ‘aha’ moment in your life where you knew this was your destiny?
I always loved cooking with my mother, grandmother, uncles and aunts. I never had an “aha” moment and never wanted to be a chef specifically - I just wanted to cook and experiment with different things, as I'm still doing today.
What’s the greatest fear you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?
Not being able to do what I want, food wise.
In 2010 your journey to discover how Cuban cuisine had evolved began. You built relationships with local chefs, as well as restaurants, homes, and farms. From that experience, you launched Pop-Up Paladares. What has been the most rewarding thing to come from this project?
Everyone thinks that Cuban cuisine is “rice, black beans and picadillo.” By launching pop-up paladares in Philadelphia and DC, we were able to showcase to the public that Cuban cuisine is not just those dishes, but a more complex palate of flavors and ingredients - with huge influences of African, Asian and Haitian flavors.
Is there a Chef who you admire the most? Who and why?
José Andrés is the chef I admire most, and there are many reasons for this. For one, he is able to surround himself with very talented people who understand what his vision is and have the ability to execute it. Additionally, he created the first DC Central Kitchen and now The World Central Kitchen - two organizations that have contributed so much to people in need. IT IS AMAZING the work that his organizations have done and continue to do around the world.
What inspired you to get involved in the American Chef Corps and participate in improving agricultural production as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative?
It was a great initiative that Hillary Clinton created while she was Secretary of State, and I could not pass up the opportunity of representing the U.S. with such an important program. I had an opportunity to visit Honduras and work with farmers and culinary students promoting healthy-vegetarian eating.
What advice would you give to young aspiring chefs or who are just starting out in the restaurant industry?
- Cook because you love it and is the only thing that you want to do.
- Don’t expect anything back, other than the instant gratification you'll get when you do something right.
- You are not a chef - you are a cook, but your time will come.
- Do your job the best you can, and people will notice.
- Learn something new every day. The day you stop learning, quit and do something else.
What is the newest culinary trend you see emerging that you’re using yourself?
Organic produce, heritage breed proteins, non-GMO and antibiotic-free poultry.
What can attendees expect from your demonstration at the 2019 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show?
I haven't decided what I'm making yet, but I can say it will be an entertaining and informative demonstration. I will try to do something interesting that everyone will have a chance to taste during or after the demo.
Bonus Question: If you were a kangaroo, what 3 items would you keep in your pouch and why?
Really, a kangaroo?? That is a first. Salt, fruit juices and fish - because, even as a kangaroo, I could live on ceviche!