Living World Heritage Through Mexican Cuisine
With serious commitment to history, tradition and the hyper localized products of Mexico City, Chef Jorge Vallejo cooks Mexican cuisine with the goal of maintaining a living heritage that is relevant across the world. Quintonil, which opened in 2013, quickly earned a spot on both the World’s 50 Best and Latin America’s 50 Best lists. It is now #6 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants List, and #22 on the World’s Best Restaurants list.
Aspire Lifestyles’ Director of Dining, Ann Hill, asked Chef Vallejo the following questions, to which she received gracious, socially conscious responses.
Aspire Lifestyles: What do you want the world to know about the cuisine of your country and the cuisine of your restaurant?
Chef Vallejo: I think that, we in México, are very fortunate of the great biodiversity and gastronomic culture we have, since it has largely defined who we are and are part of our identity. My job as a cook is to translate who I am, in a very personal and humble way, that I try to share with the customers that come every day.
Aspire Lifestyles: What is the most important value in cooking that you teach and stress to your kitchen team?
Chef Vallejo: Respect and ethic for your coworkers, customers and the products you are working with.
Aspire Lifestyles: When friends come to town, where do you take them, both to dine and to get an insider view of Mexico City?
Chef Vallejo: For me it’s mandatory to have breakfast at Nico’s. I would take them to Xochimilco and Milpa Alta, rural boroughs, because they are role models for understanding Mexico City from my point of view. These places have the capacity to produce high quality products, practically at km 0, all within Mexico City. From the pre-Columbian era to today, they’ve been providing for the entire city. In these areas you can find incredible products like high quality honey, wild mushrooms, a vast variety of vegetables, that besides the superb quality, they’ve been produced in the same ancestral method, becoming our living heritage.
Aspire Lifestyles: What has been your most memorable food destination (city/country)? Why?
Chef Vallejo: My most memorable food destination has to be Michoacan, Mexico. This is one of the states with the richest gastronomic culture, but unfortunately it is also one of the most violent states in my country. I think that is essential to get to know and study all the gastronomic diversity, traditions and products available, for those of us who are passionate of Mexican cuisine, actually their traditions and their traditional (women) cooks, were the models so Mexican cuisine could be declared intangible World Heritage.
Aspire Lifestyles: You get to take 5 chefs to dinner at any restaurant in the world. Which chefs do you bring along with you and where do you take them? Why those chefs and why that restaurant?
Chef Vallejo: I would take Ben Shewry, Dan Barber, Michel Bras, David Kinch, René Redzepi to Quintonil.