Chef Name: Jose Luis Hinostroza
Title: Executive Chef / Co-Owner
2018, ARCA was voted Best New Restaurant in Mexico by Travel + Leisure
2018 – 2021 ARCA entered into the list of the 120 best restaurants of Mexico by St Pellegrino
2018 – Winner of the Rising Star Award by Millesime
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I started washing dishes when I was 16 years old, and would quickly finish up my pile of dishes so that I could help the cooks prep. One day a cook didn’t show up and I was given my first break – I ran the cold section that day, and stayed on as a cook from that day on.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
The first time I stopped (truly stopped) to realise what I was eating. I was eating birria tacos (a type of breakfast beef-chili braise, similar to a ragout). The ragout goes in a tortilla that then gets dipped in the fat that floats to the surface of the ragout pot, and then the taco goes on the grill. What you are looking for here is for the outside part of the tortilla to be almost burnt (leopard skin) and for the inside to be juicy and moist. In my opinion, it’s the best taco in Mexico.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
I have had the fortune of being mentored by the chefs that I consider the most inspiring:
Chef Grant Achatz from Alinea Restaurant in Chicago, USA
Jordi Roca from El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain
Rene Redzepi from Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.
In this book you get an insider’s perspective to kitchen culture, both positive and negative. I strongly believe it’s one of the most real and crude depictions of how the kitchen works.
Modernist Cuisine by Maxime Bilet and Nathan Myhrvold.
It shows the scientific aspect of why and how cooking happens. It’s a must if you want to master or at least become closer to mastering cooking.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Salt and Lemon.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
I cook quite light and simple when I’m at home. I’ll say anything over white rice is always a good idea, mostly vegetable driven.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
Aitor Zabala for me is one of the people redefining cooking today – he is based in LA and soon to open his new restaurant. Previously he ran Somni in LA.
And who would you take as your guest?
Alonso Lara, my head chef for the past three years.
What do you look for in a good chef?
Attitude – everything else can be learned, but attitude is something you are born with.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Never give up.
Keep your head down and work hard.
Read, and take opportunities.
How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?
I think the same way as most of the world, we had to adapt, slightly change our old ways to fit the new normal. Less sharing plates, more focus on single plating. We also reinforced our hygiene practices, and ultimately have been even more attentive to our guest’s needs.
Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?
I would say little by little I have let go of my ego in my cooking. I realised that what makes me happy is making people happy – delivering a creative and skilful meal, but the main focus of my food is satisfaction. If my guests don’t leave happy, I haven’t done my job correctly.
Chef Jose Luis Hinostroza is Executive Chef and Co Owner of Restaurant Arca.
Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca, Tulum, Mexico