Jorge Viejo: fried beetles and caterpillars — the usual food for Mexicans
One of the best chefs in the world, the chef of a Mexican restaurant Quintonil Jorge Weiejo He told us about gourmet tacos, the peculiarities of mescal drinking and the seasonality of ant eggs.
What is Mexican food?
Mexican cuisine is not only gastronomy, it is part of our culture. Many years ago, even before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, we had the same products that we use now.
We still use many ancient recipes.
And the main task today is not to lose this great heritage, not to forget our traditions for the sake of Western fashion. Mexican cuisine is very different, in each region of the country — their own landmark dishes, which are often not found anywhere else in Mexico.
And of course, real Mexican cuisine is not tex-mex.
In Mexico City, you’ll find almost no places where burritos and fajitas are cooked. They are eaten only in those areas that border the United States.
In addition, abroad, these and many other Tex-Mex dishes have transformed, various options have appeared, non-traditional ingredients have been added to them.
What do you think about the future of your country’s cuisine?
Now in Mexico, a whole generation of young chefs has grown up, who experiment with modern cooking techniques, but they do not break away from their roots. Modern Mexican cuisine is a mixture of tradition and new technologies.
I think this trend will continue in the future. After all, this combination helps to fully unleash the powerful potential of our gastronomy, to show its richness and diversity.
And in this form, Mexican cuisine may well become a world culinary trend.
Name the five top Mexican specialties.
Mole. Homeland mole — Oaxaca. Here there are several hundred varieties of this dish: sharp, sour, spicy, sweet, all the colors of the rainbow and with the addition of a variety of ingredients.
Next — taco. Mexicans eat tacos all their lives, from birth to death.
In the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, there are even special nightly tacos. Taco is a very diverse dish, it can be simple and satisfying, it can be light and tender, and it can be gastronomic.
Nowadays, the consumption culture of tacos is changing in Mexico, there are places where gourmet tacos are cooked — with lobster, foie gras and other expensive products. In the world, everyone is totally addicted to tacos — this is about the same thing as sushi 10 years ago, now you can find this dish anywhere in the world. Another significant and my favorite dish — Cochinite — pork, stewed all night in a hole.
This is a specialty of Southeast Mexico.
A very popular dish — tamal — corn porridge, baked in corn leaves and mixed with anything — chicken, fish, vegetables, chocolate. Traditionally, tamal is eaten for breakfast. Well, guacomole, perhaps, is one of the most famous and yet undervalued dishes.
Very balanced and delicate.
Tacos with chicken and vegetables
Insects — typical Mexican food?
Some species — yes. In Oaxaca, for example, fried grasshoppers are an ordinary specialty, they are eaten at home, on the street, and in restaurants. Add them to tacos, to various dishes, rub with salt.
Quite ordinary food is fried caterpillars, they are fried in oil in a frying pan and served as a main course with a side dish of vegetables and cactus chips.
But ant and mosquito eggs are a special food not for every day, but only for special occasions: if you are calling dear guests or celebrating an important event.
Ant eggs are a seasonal product, they are harvested before the rainy season, and then it is impossible to find them.
This is how ant eggs are served at Quintonil Restaurant
What in Mexico prefer to drink food?
Mescal and tequila are our national drinks.
Mescal, by the way, is now a very fashionable component of modern cocktails, the most advanced mixologists of the world are experimenting with it.
It gives new opportunities for flavor combinations.
But real connoisseurs drink pure mezcal in their pure form — without lime and salt!
And room temperature, which allows you to fully reveal the taste of this useful and even a little mystical drink. Even Mexicans love pulque — fermented agave juice, which can be used as a natural energizer. Mexican winemaking is actively developing.
By the way, the first winery in Latin America was opened more than 400 years ago in Mexico! Now we export almost nothing, all wine goes for internal consumption. But the quality of wine and people’s interest in local wine have grown significantly.
More and more Mexicans are ordering in restaurants not French or Italian wine, but a bottle of local.
Do you cook something at home?
But mostly not for myself, but for my one-year-old daughter. The fact is that in the restaurant I adhere to the principles of healthy eating and ethical attitude to products.
Therefore, I can honestly say that I cook for my family at home just as for Quintonil guests.
Who is your first culinary teacher?
In childhood I often spent time with my grandmother.
She taught me the specifics of working with many products, I still cook tomatoes and almonds, like a grandmother. My grandmother is the best chef in the world. Like most people do.
And my grandmother taught me the most important thing — if you cook for people, then always do it in the best way. For me, this has become the motto and meaning of life.
I cook not for rewards and recognition, but for my guests.
What is your favorite childhood meal?
Once, on my birthday, I asked my father to bake a whole chicken for me. Usually my father ate chicken breasts, my mother had wings, and my legs gave me away.
But I hated chicken legs!
And hesitate to say so.
And so I received a whole chicken as a gift and solemnly ate it all.
Since then, whole chicken fried is the best dish on earth.
We are sure that Jorge would appreciate this recipe. Chicken is so tasty that eating it alone is not a problem.
Therefore, we recommend immediately cooking as a minimum a couple of chickens.
Chicken stuffed with young garlic
What do you like besides cooking?
I am an iron man — I practice triathlon: running, swimming and cycling. Bicycle is my special passion. I often ride a bicycle to nature.
For a person who promotes the need to return to the roots, this is very important. Sport is generally a good way to distract from problems. I wake up early in the morning, disconnect from everything worldly, from stress, from trouble.
I think about how to become better.
What are you dreaming about?
Everything is very simple. Someday, in my declining years, I will leave Mexico City on the coast and open a small restaurant there. In the garden I will grow vegetables and herbs, I will fish myself, and I will cook all this for my friends, for relatives, for people who pass by.
I will have plenty of time for my loved ones, and I will only do what I really love.
I will not be a great chef, I will just be a cook.
A restaurant Quintonil located on the 22nd place of the most influential restaurant rating The World’s 50 best restaurants ("50 best restaurants in the world")