In conversation with Mexican celebrity chef Colibrí Jiménez.
Chef Colibrí Jiménez is the founder of Aventura Gastronomica, a company dedicated to researching, preserving and promoting ancient Mexican culinary traditions and ingredients. She has created a sustainable project to reposition Mexican cacao with her chocolate brand Adiú and has now launched a project to save Mexican vanilla. She was honored as an ambassador of Mexican gastronomy for the official government program Visit Mexico and Taste México. Colibrí has traveled the world cooking authentic Mexican food in countries such as Spain, France, the United States, Cuba, Colombia, Hong Kong and India. She is also the author of the book ¨A Gastronomic Adventure¨. Her book won an award for Best Cookbook at the 2018 Gourmand World Cookbook, in which she shares photographs and stories from her journey to explore Mexican gastronomy and its ingredients in the far corners of the country. In 2019, she was an invited judge at Master Chef México. In 2018, she was among the only 24 chefs worldwide selected by Netflix to participate in the culinary competition ¨The Finale Table¨. In 2017, Colibrí was named one of the 25 most important women entrepreneurs in Mexico by the Mexican Congress for her work to preserve and promote Mexican cuisine. Today, Colibrí lives in Mexico where she does more research and creates exclusive culinary experiences and fine dining with authentic Mexican ingredients. She is also discovering interesting stories behind street food, chefs and agriculture, which she will share in English in her next book.
What inspired you to become a chef?
Gastronomy is related to many activities that I find fascinating, the fact that as a chef you learn about, study and promote culture, agriculture, history, taste and art.
You have been in the industry for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently
when you first started out?
Not really, everything along the way has been an experience that has enriched my journey so far.
You’ve cooked in some really intimidating kitchens. Did you do anything to build your confidence and make sure you always kept up the drive?
I told myself that I could do it, no matter what anyone else said, and that I could build a reliable team to work with.
What is one food trend you wish would just go away?
Fast food, empty food, no soul food are trends that I wish didn’t exist.
What is your cooking style and the philosophy behind it?
I believe in mindful eating and cooking, respect, awareness, fair trade and ethical food.
I developed the concept of ingredient cooking, which aims to honor and represent each Mexican ingredient. Mexico has given the world many superfoods and important culinary ingredients such as: tomatoes, vanilla, cactus, chilies, mace, insects, chia, just to name a few.
What is your favorite comfort food?
I love sushi and tacos!
Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
My grandmother Guadalupe, she imparted so much love in her cooking and cuisine.
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What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
My advice to aspiring chefs is to work hard, not just work for the money, be open to new things and always stay humble.
What are your future plans as a Mexican celebrity chef?
Right now things are complicated because of the pandemic, but I plan to return to Hong Kong to cook Mexican food and travel more, and I also plan to study and travel more in southeastern Mexico. Doing more research on biodiversity in Mexico and ways to preserve it.
When you make different products every day, where do you get your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from the culture and ingredients of each dish, from the bonds they create.
The theme of local food, from smaller, specialized producers who are personally known, is becoming increasingly important. What are some of your local partners that you draw inspiration from?
I’m all for helping local producers and sustainable ways to produce food and ingredients, it’s something I’m very passionate about. I believe there is also a need to preserve the world’s biodiversity. It is our responsibility as chefs to not only create delicious and good looking plates, but also to have an ethical way of preparing and sharing food.
What do you think is the most important/winning feature of your food?
My food is prepared with ethics and respect for the producers, the environment and health. It does not aim to be pretentious, but simple, colorful and delicious.
What are the most important considerations when creating your menu?the ingredients from the sea, the current
weather, sharing the culture and a story behind each dish are the most important considerations when creating my menus.
Have you ever thought of becoming a vegan chef?
No. I want to share my philosophy of ethical eating and freedom of thought in cooking and eating.
As a Mexican celebrity chef, what is your restaurant’s signature dish?
Traditional Mexican dishes, moles, ceviches, insects, salsas.
How can restaurants/hotels/chefs take the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based foods/food chains to others?
The best way to communicate is to lead by example by making a statement with your food, lifestyle and health.
Have you ever worked with meat substitutes? If so, what are the pros and cons?
No, what I do is make one ingredient the center of my dish, we are used to eating so much meat. I believe in making vegetables and other ingredients the star of my kitchen.
Hiring and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges in any industry, but especially in the hospitality industry. How do you talk to your staff about professional development and advancement?
It’s important to have goals as a team and to share passion, responsibility and success with other team members. I also believe in cutting off all toxicity.
What is the dish you are most proud of and why?
There are several dishes that I am proud of, such as using local ingredients, mushroom ceviche, oven baked cheese salad, rose petal and cacao cake, avocado and bean soup, roasted chiles and tomatoes with herbs and cheese soup.
Roasted tomatoes, chiles and pistachio soup. 4 servings
5 red tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 mild red chilies or 1 dry chile de arbol
20 grams of pistachios
1 liter of vegetable broth
40 grams of goat cheese
5 grams of fresh basil
– Roast garlic, tomatoes, chilies and onions on each side for 5 minutes or until dark, mix with vegetable broth and process.
– Prepare quenells with the goat cheese and cover with the chopped pistachios.
– Put olive oil and the mixture in a pot, season with salt, pepper and basil.
– Serve the quenelles in the center of a soup plate and add the soup!