Interview with Chef Enrique Olvera of Cosme - New York, NY

September 2014

StarChefs.com: What does "cooking honest" mean?
Enrique Olvera: Cooking without pretension, without diverting attention to the things that aren’t important and shining the spotlight on yourself. It means cooking at your best, motivated by a genuine desire to give your diners a special experience. It also means cooking without seeking anything other than your own story.

SC: What are the roots of your food and cooking?
EO: I was fortunate to have a grandmother from Tabasco and a mother who cooked incredibly. On my father’s side, I had grandparents who were bakers. Eating well is what started it all. My new restaurant, Cosme, has a lot to do with that past, with visits to San Cosme market with my grandfather, and now I am fortunate enough to share this legacy.

SC: Tell us more about Cosme.
EO: To open a restaurant in New York is something that I dreamed of for a long time, with lots of excitement. This opening will allow us to show all that what we have learned in these years of hard work. Cosme will have elements of all the best projects that I have been involved in and will help me share the Mexican food that I like to eat.

SC: What was your first industry job?
EO: Everest in Chicago.

SC: What was the point at which you realized you were cooking your own food?
EO: At Pujol, it took some time to find the best expression of what we wanted to do, but it always represented the cuisine that I like. The menus related very much to what I live in each moment. To be able to serve a taco on a long tablecloth, to highlight one important detail, was very important for us. To take that step, to cross that line, and bring into the restaurant the day-to-day things that define us as Mexicans, that marked a before and after.

SC: What was your proudest accomplishment?
EO: More than pride, it’s happiness to have shared with an extraordinary team the good and bad that we have lived. Every episode is important, in the measure that it brought us to here.

SC: What is the dish that best encapsulates your cooking philosophy?
EO: The Mole Madre: a dish inspired by something popular, so very Mexican. The preparation is quite baroque, combining sweet, salty, fruity, and toasted ingredients, which we melt into the same flavor. Traditionally associated with celebrations, our Mole Madre is a contemporary version of what we have eaten all our lives, but it’s taken a step further. Our grandmothers and mothers taught us to reheat it for a week, and every day was supposed to make it better. Based on this principle, we asked ourselves what would happen if we reheated it constantly? In that way, we made it into a live dish capable of representing what is beyond and within us. The response brought us to a mole that has been reheated more than 400 days, a mole that follows the rhythm of our impulses. Each time the preparation comes to 10 liters, we nurture it with new mole. We feed it seasonal products to keep up to date, as we do with ourselves.

SC: What's your favorite tool in the kitchen?
EO: For me, the most important kitchen tool is the spoon. It is the instrument that allows us to bring the world to the mouth. It is the connector between the outside and what we have inside and is, above all, the instrument with which we train our taste.