I tried Santiago’s cooking for the first time in December 2015. At that time he has shown to be a very promising young chef with a great mind, creativity and feeling who was still working on perfectioning his cooking. What we got this time was a young chef who has within only a year and half reached an incredible level of cooking (and he is only 27 years old!). His dishes are inventive, beautiful, they burst with flavour and are perfectly executed. And all this within a pop-up event with an improvised team where he had to cook for around 125 people in each sitting!
His cooking is based on choosing the best ingredients he can find in the country where he is cooking and working with them imprinting into them the soul of a young Mexican chef who travelled the world, learning from the best and rediscovering his own Mexican identity. The result of it is outstanding. I asked Santiago to share with us his thoughts behind each dish:
Chapulines: broth of roasted chapulines with mezcal and ancho chili, served with a cucumber tostada
In México in the heat of the beach you always get hot shrimp broths that are spicy and very tasty; drinking something warm and spicy in warm weather makes you feel better; my dish is made with grasshoppers instead of shrimps – which gives it a fun touch and a very refined seafood flavor actually; I serve it with a cucumber tostada – my take on a cucumber sandwich.
Salmon and roasted celeriac with pickled mushrooms, served as a tataki with chili-jamson jam and lemon puree
Raw fish is something that is present all over the world and here in the UK you have amazing trouts and salmon … so what I did is to glaze salmon with damsons and chipotle sauce that reminds me a lot of a sauce called cocktail sauce which in Mexico includes coriander and catsup and different types of citrus; it is normally made with octopus and different types of fish and shellfish, sometimes even with sea snails; I instead went for the pickled porcini; this dish, texture-wise, works very well and reminds me of the sea food cocktails that you can eat in Acapulco in the morning after a crazy party.
Smoked mushroom tacos with a wild herb emulsion and fresh chili
I served this dish for the first time in St. Petersburg. It represents a way to change the meat tacos for a vegetarian version; it is also inspired by a dish that I made with Valeria Mosca in Italy using wild herbs, mushrooms and fermented roots. The tortillas were made with organic wheat flour and pork fat to give them richness.
Turbot and pink mole with pickled pumpkins and mussels powder
The pink Mole is originally from my home town Morelos and is normally made for weddings with pine nuts and raw beetroots. Using salt baked beet roots and roasted garlic it became even more interesting. Also I finished it with pink pepper that actually grows everywhere in México and fits very good with the fish
Pig’s head and pickled chili vinaigrette served with carrots cooked in coffee and a wild summer salad
Carnitas is a traditional Mexican dish for breakfast; at 7am on the streets of México city you can see massive pots with whole pig’s confit in pork fat with vegetables, citrus and Coca Cola (its sweetness gives a very interesting caramelization to the meat) … the head tacos are made with brain, eyes, cheek or mixed. Our version was pighead cooked in pork fat with roasted cabbages and a melaza made with brown sugar and Pasilla chilli.
Corner of a Mexican market: Pistachio, unripe walnut granite, corn, grilled citrus and meadow sweet
This is basically what you can find in a Mexican market: avocados, citrus, corn, ice shavings, peanuts …. but using ingredients from this part of the world – a corn gel of pistachio, granita made with unripe walnuts (their juice is sour and spicy!) some grilled orange and an oil made of one of my favorite ingredients right now – meadow sweet – that brings everything together and gives a very surprising aroma to the dessert.
All I can say is – watch out for Santiago. He is getting ready for a long term engagement in London and I am so much looking forward to that! You should too! Keep watching this space for further info …