Congreso Ensenada Gastronomica convened in June at Ensenada’s Hotel Coral, featuring top chefs and starstruck culinary students from across Mexico, who converged for a full slate of cooking demos. Street Gourmet LA founder Bill Esparza and I had the opportunity to interview four of the nation’s preeminent chefs: Tabasco’s Aquiles Chavez, the Yucatan’s Arturo Fernandez, Ensenada-based Benito Molina and Mexico City’s Mikel Alonso. I asked, “What do you look for when you hire a chef to work in your kitchen?” Read their responses, in anticipation of Baja Culinary Fest.
Aquiles Chavez (LO Cocina de Autor Signature Restaurant)
Passion for me in the kitchen is the most important thing. Honesty is maybe the best thing to try and find in a cook. Where is the honesty?,,,To respect the ingredients, to respect the environment, this is honesty. We have success because we have a lot of chefs, we have a lot of Mexicans who are working in the same style. That’s what I’m talking about, the respect for our techniques and our roots and our product. The honesty is the best part, the most important part.
Arturo Fernandez (LAOS)
To love the kitchen, the cuisine and the products. Nothing more. This is all that I can ask for.
Benito Molina (Manzanilla)
Passion for food. Passion for food and a good palate.
Mikel Alonso (Biko)
The most important thing when a person comes to Biko to work is that they’re a good person. Where they studied doesn’t matter. If they don’t have defined values to be a good person, to be on time, to be a companion, it’s really that they had a great education from their family, of values. The best thing for a cook is to be like a sponge, that they can follow what you’re doing and understand where you’re going. It’s not something academic. The thing they need to have that’s indispensable is to be a good person.
Thank you to Street Gourmet LA founder Bill Esparza for transcribing the bulk of these interviews from Spanish, except for our interview with Benito Molina, which was in English.