'The chefs I admire most are the humble folks cooking street food': Jorge Rodríguez

The chefs I admire most are the humble folks cooking street food: Jorge Rodríguez

The head chef of Tortuga, Mina A'Salam, lets us into his kitchen

Your favourite memory of food.
Sharing a simple meal with my mother in Mexico. Her fresh homemade corn tortillas with cheese from the local farm, cured beef steak and amazing salsa are unbeatable.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
Finding the best ingredients to ensure our food is authentic, especially in Dubai.
Do you have a personal mantra that drives the way you cook food?
Never serve something to a customer that you wouldn't eat yourself.
If you could cook for a high-profile personality, who would it be?
Barack Obama. With his understanding of food and its connection to culture, I would cook the signature dish of my hometown, Pescado a la Talla, using the freshest ingredients in the market, picked by myself and with the fish caught that day.
How often do you eat out? What's your favourite place around town?
I eat out once a week, exploring different concepts - not only Mexican, but keeping in mind my competition as well. My favourite place is Netsu in Mandarin Oriental and 3 Fils in Jumeirah Fishing Harbour.
After cooking all day, do you cook for yourself at home too?
Sometimes. Usually, this is breakfast before I head to work and lunch during my days off work. I like to cook breakfast Mexican style - scrambled eggs with spicy salsa. For lunch, I like pasta with salmon or prawns.
You're asked to invent an unusual dish - what would it be?
I'd use 'Escamoles', which is the edible larvae and pupae of ants, widely used in Mexico, and part of the pre-Hispanic diet. I would make them traditionally sautéed with butter and epazote herb (a herb found only in Mexico), then caramelise them with bone marrow. I'd then put them in tacos.
Who do you admire in the culinary world?
People admire world-renowned chefs. The ones I admire most are the humble folks cooking street food, where you can really taste the true flavours of the country.
Favourite comfort food?
Traditional Mexican stews in a rich and spiced sauce, with black beans and freshly-made tortillas.
One ingredient/dish you can't stand.
Balut, a traditional dish from the Philippines. It is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and consumed from the shell. I find the texture and appearance very unappealing.
If you could choose a last meal, what would it be?
Definitely Tacos 'Al Pastor'. This is basically spit-grilled meat cooked in the vertical shawarma method, which was introduced to Mexican cooking culture by Lebanese immigrants. The flavours also combine traditional Middle Eastern spices with those indigenous to central Mexico.
Your favourite culinary destination?
Thailand. The country is so rich in culture and their food is absolutely amazing. The combination of fresh flavours and spices makes it the perfect culinary destination for me.
Where can we find you, when you're not in the kitchen?
I enjoy food photography and watching online courses about photography. I like to practise my skills at home and, sometimes, in the restaurant too, while posting these photos to my Instagram account,
- Staff Reporter

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