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Spending five days in Montreal cooking at Pullman Restaurant with Torito Chef Carlos Hernandez was exciting enough, but that pleasure only skimmed the surface of our time there. There was so much more.

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Pullman’s Executive Chef Eric Dupuis and Carlos Hernandez
The Wine and Dine portion of Montreal’s Festival of Lights also hosted a delegation of Latino chefs thanks to Peruvian native Mario Navarrete Jr, chef/owner of Montreal’s two distinguished Latino restos, Raza and Madre.

Raza is Spanish for race, but it’s also a colloquialism one Latino would say to another, intending to mean, We are one race, no matter where we hail from. Madre linguistic significance may seem pretty obvious, but the idiom implies a motherland.

Navarrete invited five Latino chefs, mostly from Chile, but also from Spain and the U.S., to help him spread the culinary gospel and generate more understanding of Latino food during the Montreal festival.

The cherry on top of Navarrete’s special party invitation. Special guest chef Douglas Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is considered to be the father of Nuevo Latino, a cuisine and sensibility formalized by his 1995 book by the same name. His style of cooking married his childhood roots learning to cook Cuban fare at his mother side while growing up in Miami, and then adding the modern twists and turns of developing his skills as a young cook who traveled extensively. Today, Rodriguez is a hugely successful restaurateur. He owns Alma de Cuba, De La Costa, Deseo and Ola. All these restaurants are located in US.

Getting Rodriguez was a coup for Navarrete, who is bright and knowledgeable, and very passionate about where Latino food is going. We spoke at length about how the previous generation of Latinos resettled in North America to build new lives, and they cooked traditionally and for sustenance for family and friends.

Then, when their offspring found themselves called to cooking as a career, as Rodriguez was, as Navarrete was, and Carlos and I were, they would train alongside their North American peers, and more often than not, travel to broaden their knowledge, explore other cultures for inspiration and move Latino cuisine further along in its evolution.

To get a feel for Next-Gen Spanish food, on Navarrete’s recommendation, we went to Raza for a taste of the work of Alex Ureña, chef-owner of New York City’s Pamplona restaurant . Carlos and I are of like minds when it comes to simplicity in cuisine, so when we sat down to this extraordinary six-course meal, where the flavours and presentation were outstanding, we came to the same conclusion: The food was too modern for our tastes. To many foams. I guess we just don’t believe in foams.

When we weren’t cooking or lined up to try yet another Montreal resto like; M Sur Masson, Tapeo, Pintxo, Les trois petits bouchons, M:brgr, La montee de lait and Le Express Bistro.
We checked out the Cuban Art and History exhibit at the Museo des Beaux-Arts with Anne Yarymowich, who have been invited to the festival to cook at Cuisine & Dapendance, and Annick Le Goaix, her Sous-chef in Montreal, and also in the AGO kitchens for many years.

Finally, respectfully, a few words of thanks for our Montreal hosts, Pullman restaurant and the brilliant culinary team led by Executive Chef Eric Dupuis. Their hospitality was warm; their professional executions were stellar, producing beautiful work, and their camaraderie during prep and service made our Montreal adventure great fun.

Till next time beautiful Montreal!!

Yours in good food and cooking with great chefs
Carlos

cheeks & tongue stew


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*Spanish for: "Mmm. Wow. That's good!"