Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

FEB 2019

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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Page 122 of 132

120 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • FEBRUARY 2019 market spotlight hand-cranking it through a machine to produce tortillas, is emulating the process from pre-Hispanic times," says Lopez. "Many chefs are going this route for polenta and grits, too. It's more work, but people appreciate it." At La Condesa, it's the large plancha grill that really gets a workout as grilled foods of all types figure more prominently on modern Mexican menus. "We burn poached oak from Central Texas on this grill to create vegetarian quesadillas stuffed with grilled greens, including kale, mustard greens and Swiss chard," Lopez says. "We treat vegetables like meat on the grill, and add salsa, pumpkin seeds, chili, garlic oil and salt. It emulates barbecue or grilled meat. It's big and bold and vegetarian as we try to do right by the vegetable. To accomplish this, we smoke and grill everything from butternut squash on glowing embers to taco ingredients. With French foods, you roast bone, but in our space, we like to get a good char and flavor in the food using a cast-iron pan and plancha." A predilection toward vegetarian represents another trait of today's Mexican cuisine. "One thing Mexican does extremely well is vegetarian," says Fairmont State's Kellner. "Much of the food is really healthy when it's authentic, and there are a great array of vegetarian options." Because the university supports Chilaca via a central kitchen, the change in menu did not require a change in equipment. The concept shares food production space with other university food programs. Back-of-the-house space on-site holds Chilaca's cold prep, such as salsas. "We use existing equipment, and all our food is cooked fresh daily," says Kellner. "We utilize steamers, combi ovens, flattops, and grills for our unique recipes and flavors." In response to students wanting more ordering options, the university upgraded its technology to include mobile ordering for Chilaca. "Our customers can order in advance when they're on their way, and this queues the order in our system," says DeSalvo. "It also helps us keep track of daily production and customer counts so we're continuously producing fresh food and ready for the flows." Mexican fare does not necessarily require ornate equip- ment. All it takes to prepare authentic Mexican food is a standard kitchen consisting of a grill, griddle, fryer and oven, in addition to a good blender, says Ashley James, a celebrity chef based in Los Angeles. "Anyone's kitchen is adaptable to this cuisine," he says. "The focus should be making corn tortillas from scratch; it makes a huge difference." James specializes in international food concepts, drawing from his 17 years at the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Beverly Hills, Buenos Aires, Punta Mita (Mexico) and Singapore; his work in Michelin-starred restaurants in England, France, Germany and Spain; and his experience hosting food-focused shows on PBS and on the elgourmet Latin food channel. "Mexican food respects seasons and geographical loca- tions, and there are many reasons for this," says James. "In many ways, logistics and transport are more expensive in Mexico, so they don't have the luxury of buying ingredients from all over like in the U.S. and Europe." For this reason, James believes, Mexican food remains more connected in terms of traditional and authentic cuisine to specific areas. Seafood dishes like red snapper and shrimp, for example, are prevalent on the coasts of Mexico and typi- cally grilled over wood. The inland regions by Guadalajara tend to favor slow-cooked and braised dishes. Restaurants further inland by Puebla are famous for poblano peppers and black mole or mole negro. "One of my favorite condiments found throughout Mexico that also is popular in the U.S. is achiote," says James. "It is great to marinate a snapper filet, mixing the seeds with vinegar, chili and lime juice into a thick red paste similar to the Indian tandoori. It's also used in tacos al pastor." On Mexico's east coast, one of the most popular dishes is suckling pig, which is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked for five to six hours in a covered pit. "People are demanding more of an authentic Mexican food experience, unlike 15 years ago when this cuisine was dominated by fajitas, nachos, tacos and burritos," says James. "This food has adapted to local tastes." The Differentiators As with ethnic restaurants overall, success in the Mexican space hinges on not trying to be all things to all people. "The challenge with Mexican is that it is ubiquitous," says Henkes. "Concepts are not just in competition with other Mexican restaurants but also eateries that have Mexican of- ferings on their menus." Setting a Mexican concept apart can require some vision and creativity, such as La Condesa's take on the modern ver- sion of Mexican cuisine. "One of our most popular dishes is our carrot salad, called Zanahoria, which includes roasted lo- cal carrots, pickled currants, crispy quinoa, carrot top chimi- churri and cardamom-white mountain yogurt," says Lopez. "This dish is a play on my favorite food as a baby — carrots." Because Mexican culture places less emphasis on meat due to its more limited availability, La Condesa has another reason to emphasize vegetables as well as beans on its menu. "Another popular dish that's simple is our bowl of beans," says Lopez. "This includes red beans cooked in the style of taro beans with poblano peppers, garlic, tomato, smoked bacon and cilantro. Many use it as a dip, and it's a favorite." Menu items change quarterly. Another unique dish came with La Condesa's take on tamales, which feature lamb, sweet potato and corn. "Normally, these are made small and served six or seven at a time, but we like to shine the light on the produc- tion and make one large tamale," says Lopez. "What people are looking for is the freedom to pick what they want to eat, add the sides they want and create their own dish. The pretentious fine dining and funky techniques are falling by the wayside." With Mexican fare, as in other segments, people are seek- ing simplicity in addition to attention to detail. FE&S

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