The international Mexican chef talks about his food, being among the best cooks in the world and his quest to dispel the stereotypes of south of the border cuisine.
ENRIQUE OLVERA is unconventional to say the least.
Incredibly talented, yet disarmingly humble. Hugely serious about his work, yet there is always a streak of humor in his gaze.
The discipline with which he has established himself as one of the top figures in the culinary world, a career that was launched when he opened the doors to his first restaurant in Mexico City at only 24, is evident in each of his decisions--yet his life and work are built around a very simple concept: To have fun, no matter what you do.
His philosophy seems to work--Pujol is now ranked 16th in the San Pellegrino First 50 Restaurants in the World list. He has a third cooking book in the works, is the founder of Mesamerica, an annual international food conference attended by the world's leading chefs, and has a total of five restaurants under his helm, an empire that is scheduled to grow even more this year. His latest one, Cosme, located in Manhattans Flatiron was so awaited reservations were not available for months. And this hype was validated with an ecstatic three-star review in The New York Times from revered food critic Pete Wells.
For Olvera cooking is a means of communication, first and foremost. It is the medium through which he expresses his ideals, his way of life. That is why he is focusing on endangered breeds of com in an effort to preserve them, along with the history and values of Mexican Gastronomy. Positioning Mexican cuisine at the center of the gastronomic world stage and transforming its stereotypes into one of the most sought after fine dining experiences in the world is no small feat, but as he explains, it is about changing perceptions, one dish at a time:
You opened the doors to Pujol when you were 24 years old, how did you find the audacity to pull this off?
At 24 you are very unprepared for life, much less for opening a restaurant. But at that time I felt comfortable with the idea and secure enough that I could operate a business. Pujol has a very small dining room with only 44 seats and at the beginning it was a very casual Fonda Bistro, just a neighborhood place where people came to have a nice meal. Things started escalating over the years, we were trying to get better and better at what we did, which is part of the philosophy of who we are, and in trying to get better we...