Carlos Gaytán, the Mexican chef innovating in Chicago
Recently, Chef Carlos Gaytán opened Tzuco in Chicago - Photo: Taken from Carlos Gaytán's Facebook account

Carlos Gaytán, the Mexican chef innovating in Chicago

05/12/2019
19:16
Mexico City
Alfredo Ávalos/Vive USA
-A +A
Carlos Gaytán is the first Mexican chef to receive a Michelin star in the United States

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Not everything has been glamour in the life of the first Mexican chef to receive a Michelin star in the United States. Carlos Gaytán has worked hard, just as many immigrants who have looked for the “American dream.”

When he was 20 years old, Carlos Gaytán left his home town Huitzuco, Guerrero, and arrived at Chicago, where he began to work as a dishwasher. Three decades later, Gaytán is known as one of the most important Latin chefs in the United States.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Una publicación compartida de Carlos Gaytan (@chefcarlosgaytan) el

The career of this awarded chef began long before he left his home town. From an early age, he learned the culinary secrets of his mother, “doña Teté,” with whom he began to explore a wide variety of flavors that, with time, he would use to create some of the most innovative recipes in Chicago.

“In my town, I learned everything, from how to kill an animal to how to cook it,” remembers Gaytán in an interview with media in Tzuco, his most recent restaurant in the Windy City, which two months after its opening continues with long waiting lists.

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The first restaurant that hired him in Chicago was North Shore in the Sheraton hotel, but it was not as a cooker but as a dishwasher. Having to begin from the lowest post in this industry helped him to know the whole operation of a restaurant and to respect the work of the whole team.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Una publicación compartida de TZUCO (@tzucochicago) el

Gaytán’s passion for culinary arts made him grow rapidly and it was in Bistro Margot, under the guidance of Chef Dominique Tougne, that Carlos would meet another cuisine that would become his obsession: French cuisine.

In May 2008, after overcoming many obstacles, Carlos Gaytán opened his first restaurant, Mexique, a fusion of his Mexican culinary heritage with French cuisine.

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However, the fusion was not accepted by everyone.

“There will always be critiques… There are few purists in gastronomy; they want to take care of it and that’s fine. I myself like to eat something simple sometimes, like green enchiladas or a green pozole from Guerrero,” says the chef.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Una publicación compartida de TZUCO (@tzucochicago) el

But despite these critiques, Mexique’s success came swiftly and, in 2013, Carlos Gaytán became the first Mexican chef to receive a Michelin star, which he retained in 2014.

After 10 years of operation, Mexique closed its doors in Chicago to continue with other projects. Gaytán who took some time to travel, study, and rediscover his roots to better understand his culinary heritage.

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Hence, in October 2019, as he had promised, Gaytán returned to Chicago and opened Tzuco, a name derived from Huitzuco, his home town.

In Tzuco, Carlos Gaytán has surrounded himself with objects from Huitzuco, like the first comal he “cured” over 30 years ago and that now hangs from one of the walls of the restaurant.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Una publicación compartida de TZUCO (@tzucochicago) el

He also brought art and even plants from Guerrero to decorate the restaurant.

Tzuco’s menu includes seafood, fish, ceviche, meat marinated in peppers and species, handmade tortillas, bread baked in his own bakery, among many other delicacies guests can enjoy every night.

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In the same building, with its own entrance, Gaytán and his team opened “Panango,” a Mexican bakery in which clients can order bread to go, and they can also find soups, sandwiches, café de olla, and other beverages.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Una publicación compartida de TZUCO (@tzucochicago) el

The piece that will complete Tzuco is Tales of Carlos Gaytán in an exclusive space inside the restaurant, with capacity for 12 persons in which the renowned chef will offer a special experience to his guests, cooking in front of them and talking about his meals.

Tales of Carlos Gaytán will open in early December.

Carlos Gaytán’s way to become a renowned chef in the United States has not been easy and thus asks migrants not to lose hope in these hard times.

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“When one comes from another country with the illusion of growing, we have to fight a lot, we have to have a lot of faith to overcome obstacles,” he asserts.

Tzuco is a culinary option that you cannot miss if you visit Chicago.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Una publicación compartida de TZUCO (@tzucochicago) el

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