I have never really thought of the Kitchen as a Career or Profession. Being a Chef is a way of life. I don’t think most Chefs realize how much weight and responsibility they have in their hands. The items that we place in our menus have an immense local and global impact. We need to be the pioneers in the local and sustainable movement, not only create delicious Menus, but to create environmentally responsible and locally sourced Menus. Respect for life is what motivates me as a Chef, every ingredient deserves the same amount of respect as the next. I have followed my passion with no hesitation an it has taken me all over the world, and allowed me to grow as a cook, learning from the Best Chefs in the World has given me the confidence to execute menus that correctly represent the type of Chef that I am, allowing me to showcase my environment and the seasons. Adapt,Improve and Overcome are Keywords.
In order for an individual to truly become a Chef, I feel it’s necessary to submerge oneself in the life style that is our profession. Cooking delicious food is not enough anymore, cooking responsibly and delicious is now the goal. I believe by using sustainable, local, and organic products, it allows us to cook in a more responsible way. By keeping good relationships with farmers and purveyors we see how our menus affect the community, therefore we remind ourselves why we take the extra effort to make our menus responsible. Respect is a huge motivation for me as a Chef; which is why utilizing the entire product is key in my style of cooking.
The items that we place in our menus have an immense local and global impact. We need to be the pioneers in the local and sustainable movement, not only create delicious Menus, but to create environmentally responsible and locally sourced Menus. Respect for life is what motivates me as a Chef, every ingredient deserves the same amount of respect as the next.
What does your typical day look like?
I get to the restaurant at 9 have a short meeting with the Chef go thru the Lunch and Dinner Reservations, make sure we have everything we need for special dietary restrictions, and any special or vip guest. Finish any last MEP for lunch. Lunch Service starts at 12 and finishes around 3. We then do a Kitchen Clean up and prep for 2 hours before we go to have Family Meal at 5. We come back at 530 and start to set up for Dinner Service witch starts at 6 and usually goes until 11pm, by this time, Starters and Amuse have already started to clean the kitchen, and Fish and Meat Section starts to break down the section. We all make sure the kitchen is pretty much done before the last Petit Four goes out. We all go home around 12-1am
What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
I am a big fan of writing everything down and making list for everything. I have made list for my day to day MEP, for my stock freezer, ordering list, Dry storage, Cleaning Supplies, pretty much everything in the kitchen. I think most chefs do this because there’s always things you are going to miss or things you may end up forgetting just because they don’t come up on an everyday basis. Writing everything down also helps me go thru the day at the end of the shift to make sure I have not forget anything, we have to be realistic and know that we are going to forget things now and then, list just make sure you are double checking yourself in everything.
Yes obviously there is been a lot of chefs and people who had helped me and keep on helping me today, but the person who really opened my eyes to how far I could go was without a doubt Chef Grant Achatz. Chef Grant was the first Chef who completely blew my mind, his approach to food and his thought process, are some of his attributes that I admire the most. In a way he was the one who remove the word impossible out of my vocabulary, and thought me to always push for more.
Where do you think the most significant growth will occur in the Food & Beverage Industry in the next few years?
I believe the culinary world has done a tremendous job during the past decade, making spots that nobody expected explode in gastronomy, and having food revolutions in every corner of the world, for that I am extremely proud and thankful. While I that the wish to see more of this movement I also hoping that in the next few years there will be a greater focus on a diminishing waste or adopting practices like waste utilization. I know that by focusing on 100% product utilization we will be forced to open new creative windows that will set trends for the next years to come and hopefully set us on a more responsible culinary path.
What’s your first memory of your love for cooking?
Watching my mom and sister preparing Christmas Dinner when I was very young, one of them working the masa for the tamales and the other one cleaning the honey-come tripe for the menudo, I didn’t realized it then but I definatelly do now, at the end they where just putting all that extra efford to make the food a little better, in a way its an extension of what a lot of chefs do, work extra hours, adding extra steps and giving an extra effort to be able to give the guest higher quality food. Doesn’t have to be fine dinning it can just be a burger but its those personal decisions that elevate the end product.
When did you know you wanted to be a Chef?
The time was definitely during high school, the time came when you had to start thinking about focusing on a career, I was enjoying cooking so much and having so much fun I didn’t see it as a career. As a high school student I felt a career had a to be something “grown up” something extremely boring like been a Lawyer or an Accountant. At the end thankfully I realized that if I was having so much fun doing it why not dedicate the rest of my life to it so I did.
Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?
Even do I am currently a Sous Chef I still consider myself to be training, there is so many people to be learn from, young and old, experienced or not, anyone can surprise you with a small jewel of advise or technique, the day I feel I don’t need any more training is the day I am burned out.
I believe one of the greatest aspects of my Job is that work with products directly derived from nature, I work with products that where alive days if not hours from the time I receive them, that makes me appreciate life even more than the normal person. There is such a huge amount of respect given to every single item in the restaurant, because it deserves it. We are responsible to treat every single product that comes thru the doors with all the respect it deserves. It may seem strage to say but if we make a mistake in the kitchen, for example burn a piece of meat of ruin a tender piece of fish, in a way it’s a wasted life. I take huge pride in making sure our products get treated with respect.
Describe your style in three words.
Simplicity, Balance, Emotion
What’s your favorite dish to create?
My favorite dish will vary on who is eating it, when I cook for any public I like to make connections to their geographic location and to their cultural background. I believe that by targeting both of these areas you are able to make an emotional impact with the meal.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
There is no one aspect that I draw my inspiration from, inspiration is something that you have to be open for, you can find inspiration in everything, you just have to be open to receive it or you have to be able to distil it from your experience, that can be a walk in the park or a dinner or by looking at a painting, you cant just be expecting to be inspired by something in particular.
What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen?
Water, Salt, Sugar, Acid,
If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you make?
One of my fantasies is to be able to cook for Rene Retzepi, I feel it would be one of the hardest people to be able to please and inspire at the same time. What I would cook would vary a lot on where and at what season I would be cooking but I think it would be something related to my Mexican background, I know he is a fan of Mexican cuisine so I think it will be a good way to connect with him.
I am proud that I have been able to travel and explore different cuisines in Europe and that I have never been afraid to say No, I have always jumped for the opportunity and have never been left with the feeling of what if.
Who is your biggest supporter?
My mother is one of the main people who pushed me to start into to culinary world and she has always been an honest critic, so I definitely have to say that she has always been the number 1 supporter.
What would you want to have as your last meal?
I am a huge fan of Breakfast so most likely it would be a gourmet 3 star breakfast buffet, French Toast, Quiches, Croissants, Smoked Salmon, Foie Gras Scrambled Eggs, Caviar and Blinis, Potato Rosti, Pancakes, Crab Benedicts,
Are there any foods you just don’t like?
What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
Star Fruit, I have never really tasted ripe star fruit and have really never really touched it in a respectful setting, I have seen it decorating crappy buffets during some holiday vacations, but I have never come across it treated with respect in a dish.
Do you do the cooking at home?
Yes, most of the time I don’t have the money to go and get my favorite dishes at Restaurants so I end up cooking them at home.
Having to run out during the busiest time of the day at Alinea in Chicago in seach of Autum Leaves, we used to decorate the tables with the leaves, the guest will then remove/look thru the leaves placed at the table for their amuse bouche. It wouldn’t had been a problem if it had been 1 week before but that week was the week where every single tree in Chicago was completely bare to the branch, of course we where not going to go back to Chef and tell him we didn’t make it happen, so we ended up jumping into this private garden and stealing fallen leaves from the back yard, we ended up been chaced out of the garden by a very old and sweet lady.
Tell me 3 things that you consider to be your cooking strengths.
- Treating every product with respect, this allows me to get more out of the product.
- Be able to make cultural and emotional connections with dinners.
- Focusing on understanding the scientific reason why some reactions happen and why some things work and some don’t
If you had just one wish, what would it be?
Be able to open my restaurant in the next few years.
Are you working on any big projects now?
I have submitted my application for the St. Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year 2015, I am doing practice runs during my off days just to make sure I am ready to go if I end up getting selected to compete. To say I am exited to compete will be a huge understatement.
Ever since I started cooking I felt I started late, every time I read some Chef success story they where always talking about how they started to cook standing on top of a box when they where 6 years old next to their grandmothers or at least that’s how I felt, so naturally I always felt I was running extremely behind, so I have always tried to study more than everyone else, to read more, to practice more, and to basically give more effort with everything that I do. I feel that this mentality is what has helped me so far, and again I cant afford to feel comfortable because there is always going to be some super chef out there doing something more than you. My advise is keep pushing forward and never compare your self to the rest of the people in the room, good or bad as long as you are trying your hardest then you cant blame yourself if things don’t go your way, at least you gave it all you had.
To learn more about Chef Hinostroza please visit Chef’s Roll, and check out his social media!