“Passion is the main ingredient for any dish.”

Chef Carlos Gaytán, originally from the state of Guerrero, went to Chicago in the early 1990s in search of better opportunities. Almost two decades later, he has become an inspiration for hundreds of Mexican chefs seeking international recognition. He has worked as executive chef in different prestigious restaurants until 2008, when he opened his own restaurant: Mexique. He was also the first Mexican to obtain a Michelin star in 2013.



What made you decide that cooking was your trade?

Since I was little I have always cooked, first to help my mother, but it wasn’t until I arrived to the US that I understood that gastronomy was something very different from what I thought. But above all, to witness the reactions of diners when tasting a special dish motivated me; that was what encouraged me to decide that I wanted to be a cook.


Is there a recipe that has surprised you?

One of the recipes that I carry deep in my heart is my mother’s green pozole, a very traditional dish that she used to make, but with different spices and flavors that made it unique. With this recipe I have done many crazy things. When I was competing, they gave us a whole pig; I made the pozole and used many parts to make appetizers and taquitos, and when the chefs tasted the food and the green pozole won, the judges described it as the best dish for all seasons. I took all the credits that really belonged to her.



What do you think about the current international preference for Mexican food?

It’s not that it’s trending; it’s that our cuisine is fantastic. It can be influenced and given a special touch; it’s daring—a unique presence—and many flavors have been adopted by chefs all over the world, including those who have won Michelin stars. You can find an ice cream with hoja santa, a mole dish, chicharrón in green sauce, Mexican ingredients, and typical dishes reinterpreted with Mexican roots.


Why do you think there are very few Mexican chefs with Michelin stars?

I attribute it to the fact that this award is given to established restaurants. Mexican chefs move a lot; I think that’s one of the reasons. They want to see the chef in the kitchen. As an institution they have rules, but in Mexico we are at the same level of any other place in the world. There is plenty of talent in Mexico. Today, I can say that one of my favorite restaurants is Mexican: El Alcalde in San Miguel de Allende, which serves a very simple meal but is amazing.

What happened to me was something out of this world. That’s why I’m grateful to God, who guided me. We have to work together, to lead young ones who are taking their first steps, guide and boost them, teach them everything I know and then send them with other experts; for example Paco Ruano, or anyone else who is already established, to work with him and learn all the techniques. Imagine if we helped young people that way.

I must say that I did have a mentor, got a lot of help from Chef Miller at the Sheraton. After four years he told me: you have to leave. I asked him why, if I’m the one who does everything? And he answered: “if you stay, I would be the most selfish person in the world, because you have a lot of talent and you need to learn a lot more. I already taught you everything I know; if you stay, you’d be wasting your time”.  Imagine if we were all like Chef Miller, whom I’m always reaching out to, whom I’ve never doubted, and I have never stopped telling him how grateful I am for those words. Although we are at different levels now, he’s still the one I ask for advice.


What would you like to give back in gratitude for all your success? Do you have a social project in mind?

When God gives you something you have to share it; you cannot keep it, because if you have your hands full, how will He give you more? I don’t like to say it much, but one of the things I do is on Thanksgiving Day: we close the Mexique restaurant to the public and we open it only for people in need—the ones who don’t have a job, who have lost their homes, families that have nothing to eat. In the US, we’ve hosted many events to donate scholarships for young people’s education. I would like to do something like that here in Mexico.     O






The Chef’s favorite restaurants:  

1-Restaurante Alcalde del Chef Paco Ruano (Guadalajara)

Tel: (01) 33 36157400



2-Restaurante Frida Kahlo del Chef Ricardo Vega (Riviera Maya)

Tel: 01 984 803 2920



3-Restaurante  Quintonil chefs Enrique Olvera y Jorge Vallejo (DF)

Tel: 5280 1660



4-Dulce Patria  Chef Martha Ortiz (DF)

Tel: 52821976



5-MX Gourmet  chef Gabriela Ruiz Lugo (Villa Hermosa)

Tel: 01 993 316 3939



6-Restaurante Amaranta Chef Pablo Salas (Toluca)

Tel: 01 722 280 8265



7-Restaurante Comedor Jacinta del Chef Edgar Nuñez (DF)

Tel: 5036 6965



Text: ± Photo: SAPIEN STONE

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