I like to cook with the philosophy of using great ingredients and not altering them too much.
Nobody likes sweaty coleslaw.
My biggest challenge is cooking traditional French dishes, which usually require very specific techniques and methods. That’s just not my style... I cook from the soul.
My mother and my grandmother are pioneers of Mexican cuisine in this country, so I grew up in the kitchen. My mom, Zarela Martinez, was by far my biggest influence and inspiration - and toughest critic.
I was a little, uh, incorrigible as a kid, so the kitchen was a good place to give me structure and balance. It taught me hard work, but then I grew to love it.
Instead of going out, I'm trying to encourage people to have a memorable experience in their own home. We call it 'Delicioso Night In.' I invite the people I care about the most. Then, when I get a lot of people together, I like to have finger foods.
When I was a teenager, I worked in New Orleans for a chef named Paul Prudhomme. That was a very important time in my life as a chef. I developed my palate and learned a lot. And here I am now. I specialize in modern Mexican and contemporary Latin cuisines.
Latin food suffers like Chinese. You can do marginal Chinese and be successful. You can do crappy Mexican and be packed.
I wanted to get away from the Mexican vernacular and do more 'nuevo Latino.' Americans are starting to understand regionality in Mexican food. It is very regional in terms of ingredients.
Marcus Samuelsson is a chef who inspires me everyday. He has such a deep understanding of flavors and techniques. His food is representative of the diverse world that we live in. What he has done in Harlem with Red Rooster is very special. Marcus is not just a chef, he's a food activist.
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