Flash-grilled: Adriana Cavita

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with former El Bulli and Pujol chef Adriana Cavita

Related tags: Chef

Mexican-born chef Adriana Cavita, who previously cooked at El Bulli in Spain and Pujol in Mexico City (the latter currently ranked 12 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list), is set to takeover the kitchen at Hotbox Shoreditch for a series of dinners beginning on Monday (12 October).

What was your first industry job?
Nicos restaurant - I worked with the restaurant’s resident baker every morning from 4am til midday for four months. After that I spent one month at Pujol as a practitioner, when I was 19, and then they hired me as a prep chef.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
Farmer or Gardener, I definitely love plants and everything related to them.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Tasting menu.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Asma Khan is one of my favourite industry figures, always smiling, a very humble woman, she brought a different view of Indian food to UK. She fights for what she believes in!

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Ego.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
"Why do you put prawn tempura in tacos? That's not proper Japanese food."

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Mexican roots and soul, cooked with love.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
One person saying that the food portion was to small and he was disappointed, he didn’t enjoy the meal at all. Bad service, all bad. I felt so sad, but I suppose Mexican food wasn't that popular by that time in UK so it was very tough for me to cook the first year. But I prefer to have constructive critics rather than just negativity.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
I would say read about hospitality and the history of it, don´t be afraid to make mistakes, we are all human and we make mistakes but we learn from them and that´s the way to improve ourselves and became better professionals. Work hard for yourself not for others, to become what you would like to be and reach your goals. But put limits; try to find the balance between your personal life and work.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My maricona (tortilla press). I brought this tortilla press from Oaxaca and I really love it. I can make many different textures and 'antojitos mexicanos' with it. Love it!

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My mum's 'mole de olla' - beef stew with dry chillies, potatoes, courgettes and green beans.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
My favourite meals are always at the seaside in Mexico, at these little restaurants where local people go to eat. They always have fresh fish cooked on the grill, ceviche, prawns sautéed with dry chillies, and rice on the side.

Favourite fast food joint?
I die for tacos, in all the versions, sizes and textures available.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Sopa de tortilla.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Great British Menu.

Most overrated food?
Micro herbs.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Bullying and machismo.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Anthony Bourdain, Caetano Veloso, Asma Khan, Jeong Kwan, Nezahualcoyotl, Sebastiao Salgado, Javier senosiain and Salma Hayek.

What’s your earliest food memory?
I use to play with corn dough that my grandma gave me. Then I used to make little tortillas or little stacks that she cooked for me and I eat it.

Tipple of choice?
Mezcal.

What do you consider your signature dish?
Probably my grilled octopus with axiote marinade and potato puree; or mole estofado with beef tongue. Right now people love the fish tacos with gluten-free batter, sweet potato puree, spicy mayo and red cabbage.

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