Q&A With Mexico City Chef Eduardo García

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in: Chefs

Gabriela and Chef Eduardo Garcia. Credit: Peter Norman

Máximo Bistrot Local opened its doors at the beginning of 2012, and quickly became the hottest place in Mexico City. It’s an unpretentious European-style bistro in the once opulent Colonia Roma neighborhood, which is in the midst of a redevelopment boom. Cool and chic Máximo replaces a dowdy medical supply store; once a trash-strewn corner with little foot traffic is now a well-known gastronomic destination. You can find the best brandade de morue this side of the Seine here. Or a classic ceviche. While Mexico-born chef and owner Eduardo García likes rustic French cooking, his feet are firmly planted on native ground, and he often includes typical Mexican ingredients such as chilies, hot and mild; cuitlacoche, the rich corn fungus known as “Mexican truffle”; or country herbs like epazote in his dishes.

The chef formerly worked under Enrique Olvera of Pujol, the esteemed local palace of experimental gastronomy, and also toiled in Manhattan’s star-strewn Le Bernardín where seafood reigns.

Gariela and Chef Eduardo Garcia on Bench at Maximo Bistrot Local. Credit: Peter Norman

Máximo Bistrot Local Chef Eduardo García and his wife Gabriela. Credit: Peter Norman

García represents the new generation of Mexican cooks who, while well aware of what’s going on in Spain, California and New York, have come back home, incorporating these ideas into their native cuisine.

Eduardo García puts ‘local’ in Máximo Bistrot Local

The chef has brought expert gastronomic skills to his own place, opened on a shoestring and run with his wife, the affable Gabriela, who acts as host. Máximo Bistrot Local’s publicity claims that materia prima is local and organic, if possible. The chef visits the city’s spectacular markets daily, choosing what looks best, then adroitly improvising a new menu each day. The food coming out of his kitchen is worthy of hyperbole.

How is what you cook related to classic Mexican cuisine?

Our menu is based not only on Mexican cuisine, but also on local ingredients — hence the name “bistro local.” But I like to include a few “authentic” dishes. The relationship between my cuisine and Mexican cooking is all about ingredients, methods and philosophy. I think my growing up in Mexico and having trained here infuses everything I do. For example, I often take advantage of the huge variety of chilies used in our cooking, and the specifically Mexican ways of preparing them, such as toasting and grinding.

And to classic European cooking?

I wouldn’t say “classic European” but French and rustic Italian. Again, the methods are a big part of the relationship. I take what I consider to be the best techniques from the aforementioned European traditions.

What are the advantages of running a restaurant in Mexico City?

In the city, purveyors are more focused than in other parts of Mexico. We’re in the middle of the country and everything is available here; I can get seafood from either coast hours after it is caught.

Also guests here are more open to experimenting with food than they might be in the provinces — Mexicans tend to be conventional when it comes to food.

What’s coming up on your menu? 

I’m planning a trip to visit small restaurants in Europe to get more inspiration for my menu. I’m more interested in experiencing local, time-honored cooking than the avant-garde stuff.

What is you latest ingredient obsession? 

Fresh seafood from Ensenada. There are extraordinary ingredients there. Percebes, for example, are barnacles not well-known outside of Spain, where they cost a fortune. Here they are accessible and I’ve been experimenting with them: I included them in a ceviche recently.

What is your favorite restaurant/chef in town?

I don’t hang out much with the “top” chefs or at fancy restaurants. My favorite place is Fonda Las Margaritas in Colonia Del Valle [a quiet residential neighborhood south of the center]. It’s where I like to eat on my day off. It’s a simple old-fashioned neighborhood fonda that does really authentic no-frills Mexican food.

And out of town?

Casa Oaxaca, in Oaxaca City. My friend, Chef Alejandro Ruíz, is doing incredible things with local market foods there. I always look forward to seeing what he’s up to.

Where do you see the restaurant scene headed here in Mexico City?

The culinary scene here is expanding, as are people’s palates. I think that Mexico City is becoming one of the top destinations for food. New restaurants as well as old established ones are using more fresh and local products. And that’s a real good thing.

And what are your life plans?

I’ve been offered jobs here and abroad, book deals, even a TV show! I’ve turned them all down. Because I just don’t have time to do anything but cook, and make sure everything in my place is the best it can be.

I’ve seen some of my contemporaries fall prey to the “star chef” phenomena — and their restaurants suffer for this. You can’t be a star and maintain a great kitchen unless it is established and you are able to train younger chefs to be as good as you. I know I’m not there yet. We’re doing amazingly well, are always full and now have sidewalk rights so a few more tables. But it’s very hard work, six days a week, exhausting. I hope I can keep it up.


Zester Daily contributor Nicholas Gilman is a founding member of a Mexican chapter of Slow Food International, the author of "Good Food in Mexico City: A Guide to Food Stalls, Fondas and Fine Dining" and served as editor and photographer for the book "Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler." He has a website, goodfoodmexicocity.com, and has appeared extensively on radio and TV in the U.S. and Mexico. He lives in Mexico City.

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Comments

Louis Santamaría
on: 12/5/12
Loved the interview style and Eduardo's comments! Bravo!
Olivier Dekeyser, patissier
on: 12/5/12
Excellent resto. Tout y est fait maison, avec amour du produit, et passion du métier! Un chef de premier ordre, une bonne équipe en cuisine et en salle. Bravo Nicholas de le mettre en valeur!
Françoise
on: 12/5/12
Simplement bravo!
Paula Ungar
on: 12/6/12
Great keep the menu smaller and simple and people comeback often.
Elias Guerrero, New York
on: 3/1/13
A wonderfully delicious dining experience, something unexpected and eagerly anticipated from afar. Chilly DF night with graciously attentive & personable staff, delectable dishes & a crisp Cote du Rhone, what's not to like? A rare gem.....

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