Flash-grilled: Nick Fitzgerald

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash grilled with former Pujol restaurant in Mexico City chef Nick Fitzgerald Tacos Padre.

Related tags: Mexican cuisine

Chef Nick Fitzgerald, who previously cooked at Pujol in Mexico City (currently ranked 12 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list), now runs Borough Market-based taqueria Tacos Padre.

What was your first industry job?
Working as commis chef at 15 in Dublin on Wednesdays after school. Basically I got to wash spinach, but I loved it! The head chef went on to open his own restaurant, which now has a Michelin star.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I think I would be working somewhere in the food world even if I wasn't in kitchens, maybe farming produce and some cattle.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
So many to be honest, I think the Adria brothers, Albert and Ferran, changed everything. I looked up to them a lot when I was a young chef; the level of creativity wasn't like anything I had ever seen before. 

À la carte or tasting menu?
À la carte every time,

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Baby corn snack in Pujol, served with chicatana ants.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Also many! Someone who says "that's not my section" will stop me in my tracks immediately. It doesn't happen in our kitchen.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Asking for butter after a meal to use as lip balm - still makes me laugh.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
I have a real focus towards making things as balanced and delicious as possible, am constantly thinking how things can be improved, and have no issue spending five days or more on an overall cooking process for one dish; in fact, we have just done exactly that with our short rib at Tacos Padre.

Most overrated food?
Burgers, one of the greatest and most successful marketing exercises within food. Mince meat and soft bread...

What’s your earliest food memory?
Cooking with my mother, probably paella (I am half Spanish).

Twitter or Instagram?
I find instagram more engaging as I am a bit more visual.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I'm not sure really. We have only been open a short time and I have been cooking as a head chef. I am sure we have had something, but we mostly get positive feedback.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Read, travel, and get experience in as many places as possible to figure out what you actually want to do rather than get stuck somewhere for a long period. At the same time, set minimum targets. I think chefs should really think about where to work and should be working somewhere for at least two years so that you can have enough time to develop and grow.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
Almost drowning off the coast of southern Spain. I just about made it back to shore after coming off a boat.

Tipple of choice?

What do you consider your signature dish?
Probably our short-rib, or maybe our cauliflower al pastor - a lot people go for that who aren't vegetarian or vegan.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
I would say the grill - a lot of how we develop flavour goes through there, whether it is gentle toasting or aggressive burning.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Probably some of the incredible ceviche tostadas in Ensenada, on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. There is one stall in particular which is worth making the journey alone for: La Guerrerense, owned by Sabina. It is 100 meters from the 'black market' - a local fish market - and another 200 from the sea. This is some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten. They have a range of incredible salsa as well. The Pacific sea in this area is highly nutrient rich so the quality and variety of the fish is incredible. Ensenada is actually well known as a Japanese trade route for fish as it is of such high quality. As a result you can find fried oysters in soy sauce in local bars. 

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