The talented chef at BocaDos STK restaurant, Alvaro Cortez, took time out of the kitchen to share with members a little about his background and passion for succulent cuisine and interactive dining experiences. Born in the state of Veracruz on the east coast of Mexico, father of five Chef Alvaro moved to Puerto Vallarta with his family little over a year ago to lead the team at BocaDos restaurant. Below you will enjoy a short interview with the inspiring chef.
How did you come to be the Chef at BocaDos STK?
About 4 years ago I worked for Garza Blanca’s sister resort in Cancun, Villa del Palmar Cancun, where I was Chef at La Casona. From there I went to work for another company in Cancun where I was involved in the “Chef Experience” which was attended by a number of the members of the executive team from Tafer Hotels & Resorts. As you might expect, some of these executives recognized me from my time at Villa del Palmar Cancun and they were impressed by what we were doing during this chef experience.
Amongst the visitors was Villa del Palmar Cancun’s current General Manager, Germain Gallardo, who was actually the one who asked to meet the chef responsible for the experience. It wasn’t long after that time that they invited me to the project at Garza Blanca and about a year later I joined the team here.
Did you always want to be a chef?
My passion for cooking began at an early age. From the time I was about 4 years old, I remember my mother baking. Little by little my interest in cooking grew. I then went on to study a degree in gastronomy and later food engineering. The first place I worked was actually a steak house; I was working and studying at the same time. I think it was there that my relationship with meat began.
What is so special about meat for you?
Each type of meat has such a unique flavor all of its own. Particularly beef. With steak you can do hundreds of things. For me, having a piece of beef in my hands is like holding a bouquet of roses. If you don’t treat it well, if you don’t look after it, the result is terrible, while if you prepare it in the right way, the results are exquisite. Obviously, the quality of the meat is very important, but the ability of the person preparing and cooking it is even more important. You can have the best meat in the world, but if you don’t have the right preparation, skill and passion for what you are doing, you won’t get the results you are looking for.
Is there a chef that inspires your work?
I would have to say that French chef, Alain Ducasse is one of the chefs that has most inspired my work. You could say he is one of those chefs who has most influenced the way modern kitchens function, bringing order and hierarchy to cooking. He is an inspiration for me because he doesn’t always use the latest cutting-edge techniques just because he can but is highly creative. He also thinks about the whole experience of the dinner, not just the food. For example, he designs his own tableware, thinking precisely about the dishes he will be serving. He goes directly to suppliers and asks for what he wants, including tablecloths, cutlery etc. He takes care of every last detail.
What new treats do you have planned for BocaDos STK?
Well, one of the projects we are planning to implement in the next few weeks is our own “Chef Experience” which will see an extra option added to the current menu that will change every third day. This will mean that our diners, particularly our regular members, will have the opportunity to try different dishes on the menu each time they dine. So, in addition to their favorite dishes from BocaDos STK that they love to share, they can also order these special dishes.
What exactly can members expect from this new “Chef Experience”?
Well, the Chef Experience is all about adding unique touches, where diners can “play” with their food; rather dining becomes an interactive experience where we might use hot rocks to cook the food right there on the table, or meals might be served on edible plates or place mats. They can expect textures, cutting-edge techniques, molecular details like foams and reductions and so on.
The idea is that dining becomes a dynamic experience where guests might cook some of the ingredients in the meal, or indeed cool them; or diners might cut meat with a scalpel to prepare their own sashimi, being able to make it as thick or as thin as they like. The beauty of these dishes is that they are totally creative and “freestyle,” no two orders will be exactly the same. While four people at the table might order the same thing, they will all have their own unique touch. Such details make eating so much more fun and interactive.
What about a “wow” moment that you are proud of?
Just a few weeks ago, we welcomed a couple who were celebrating their honeymoon and the wife recognized me from my previous job in Cancun. She even had a photo of the three of us on her cellphone. So, the first “wow” was for me! Ha ha! We then spent some time talking about how I came to be working at Garza Blanca and so on. While the couple were dining, I found an elegant tequila box and prepared it with petit fours —mini desserts— which we delivered to their suite, so that when they arrived they found the gift with a note from me. It was my way of personalizing their experience and providing a special detail.
Can you share a little with members about your personal life?
Well, I am a father of five boys! The youngest is just 8 months old. We named him Alain after my favorite chef. My wife is also a chef but at the moment she is dedicating her time to bringing up our five boys. I love sports too.