Interview with Chef Daniel Tellez Reynoso
Sofrito Magazine (SM): Welcome, chef, to New York City, and thank you for the opportunity [to talk with you.] Is this your first time in New York?
Chef Daniel Tellez Reynoso (DT): No. I have been to New York on vacation, [but] not as a guest chef or for work.
SM: How would you characterize your experience participating in the New York City Food and Wine Festival?
DT: So far it’s been very interesting. You really get to know a city and the culture when you work in it; it’s very different from visiting as a tourist. When you come to work it’s different because it encompasses working with others, buying local products, cooking in an unknown kitchen, and learning the transportation system. [The] experience of coming here to cook is only enhanced by knowing other kitchens and learning their methods, [as well as] by [observing the style] of the city.
SM: What made you decide to become a chef?
DT: In my family there are a lot of people who work in kitchens, not for the love of the kitchen but as a way of surviving. Slowly I fell in love with it. I realized that what I liked and filled my soul was cooking. At eighteen, I decided to start working in the kitchen and make it my career.
SM: How would you like to have an impact on the culinary world?”
DT: When I cook on a daily basis, the culinary change that I would personally create is the last thing I think about. When it comes to Mexican cuisine, if there is anything that I can add to it and it’s something beyond [my] expectations that fills me with pride and joy. I will always be a chef―from now till I am 50…and beyond. [What’s important are] the flavors, the tradition, the originality of Mexican cuisine.
SM: Speaking about tradition, what do you do in the Mexican household and how do you keep tradition alive during the holidays―Christmas, the New Year, Three Kings’ Day? What do you cook during that period?
DT: I believe, since the beginning of humanity, [what kept] together the family, the social nucleus of friendship, was food―first because they had to eat and second for social reasons. Here, in Mexico food is very important in keeping the family together; [it’s important] to eat with the people you love. Food tastes better when you eat with someone; it’s not as good when [you’re] alone. In our family we eat Romeritos con Mole (rosemary with mole sauce,) we make bacalao a la Vizcaina (Basque-style codfish stew), our own roast turkey―very different from the United States. We have a ton of desserts, as well.
SM: Thank you very much. What are you preparing for us today?
DT: Today we have authentic, traditional Mexican food. We do not try to reinvent it; that is not necessary.
We have two desserts: 1) chocolate mousse Oaxaca with vanilla cream, and 2) tartin de xoconostle (Upside down Tart) (Xoconostle is the fruit of a cactus; it is similar to the prickly pear.) Even though tunas (prickly pears) and xoconostles look similar, they taste different.
[Our] main dishes are: 1) zeppelin flor de calabaza (squash blossom filled with mushrooms), 2) aguachile de camarón (shrimp cooked in lime and chili), and 3) brocheta de pulpo (baby octopus kabob).
SM: Are these dishes from your restaurant in Mexico City?
DT: This is a collaboration between Chef Alfredo Ruiz, Chef Azari Cuenca, and [me.] We wanted to showcase traditional Mexican food.
SM: Thank you so much. Enjoy your stay here in New York City. And I hope to visit Mexico City very soon.