Julia: Tell me about Ingredientes Materiales. How did it start and what was the work you were doing with food?
Hugo: My partners on the project – Andrea, Rigel, Emilio, Alredo, and Marco – are all product designers, and have all been interested in working on a project that involves food. So, they approached me and proposed we integrate the culinary and design disciplines. For our first project, we made an eight course tasting menu based on carintas (Mexican pulled pork). We created an exhibition inspired by the preparation of this dish, and experimented with new designs of the classic copper pot classically used to prepare the pork.
JS: You have had a range of careers, from music to an import business, and now to food. Can you tell me about that journey?
HD: I studied music as a child and became a composer when I was very young. But, it is hard to make a living as a musician in Mexico, so I moved to Germany. I moved back to Mexico after 7 years and started a business importing and distributing beautifully designed home goods. Business was good, but I my heart wasn’t in it. Then, a friend asked me to help at his restaurant – sort of a try at your own risk offer, and I was immediately captivated.
JS: What was your experience of culinary school in Mexico City like?
HD: Culinary school focuses on techniques and methods of French cuisine, which is not always relevant, especially if your main interest is traditional Mexican cuisine. In my opinion, better cooks are made by practice, constant tasting from other kitchens, and a general and continuous study of agriculture, technology, history, and social context.
JS: This is not your first attempt at making ceviches. You had a seafood based pop-up in Mexico City. How did you arrive at that concept?
HD: In Mexico City, it is traditional to eat seafood on the weekend. The marisquerias are often an obligatory stop for hangover rehab, so I opened a seafood focused pop-up that was open every Sunday called Tierrabomba.
JS: What is the story behind this fish-less ceviche.
HD: I love ceviche, and I was asked to create one for a vegan restaurant as an audition for the chef position. It was quite a challenge to remove the fish as the main ingredient of ceviche! I wanted my ceviche to retain a deep-sea taste. In the end, I did not end up collaborating with them (they actually thought the fish-free ceviche tasted too fishy) but this dish became one of my favorites. I still try to improve it every time I make it.
JS: You are involved in a very ambitious project involving Mexican chocolate. Can you explain how that collaboration works?
HD: I’ve always been a chocolate addict, but I became more seriously part of cacao culture when I heard about Hector Galvan, a knowledgable chocolatier. He works on what he calls Agricultura Chocolate, his laboratory and brand is called La Casa Tropical. There, he develops recipes for Mexican cacao in all possible forms. I’ve helped create dishes based on cacao and vanilla, ingredients that Hector knows really well. Cacao has a deep history in Mexican cuisine; it is interesting to find ways to incorporate some Mexican culture into a dish. Cacao is so much more than a dessert.