3 star chefs + 3 star menu = Casita Linda’s starry night gala

By Alexis White

The ingredients have yet to be shopped because freshness is the key, but celebrated Mexico City chefs Enrique Olvera of Restaurante Pujol, Mikel Alonso of Biko Restaurante, and Sonia Arias of Jaso Restaurant already have planned the menu they will create for Casita Linda’s first gala, Spirit of Hope: Celebrating 50 Houses and 50 Families. The dinner dance will be held at The Winery at Los Senderos.

Gala Dinner
Spirit of Hope – Casita Linda
Celebrating 50 Houses/50 families
Sat, Oct 13, 6-10pm
The Winery
Los Senderos
US$125 or 1,600 pesos
More info at info@casitalinda.org

Cena y baile de Gala
Casita Linda, Festejando 50 Casas y 50 Familias
Sáb, Oct 13, 6-10pm
Pabellón del Viñedo
Los Senderos
1,600 pesos o US$125
Más informacióne en info@casitalinda.org

The chefs will introduce their courses to the 200 gathered guests with a brief presentation about the recipes involved. Olvera’s Pujol and Alonso’s Biko were recently ranked 36 and 38, respectively, in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012. Organized by Restaurant magazine, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts.

The dinner hour begins with Olvera’s grilled mushrooms and chard and herb-filled tamales, (mixiote de hongos tatemados y tamal de acelgas y hierba de conejo). Alonso’s main course features fresh Pacific white fish from Ensenada in a special sauce with roasted pineapple, lime gel, red onion gel, achiote, crispy onion and bread crumbs, (pescado de Ensenada en recaudo, adornado con piña asada con sal de gusano, gel de cebolla morada, cebolla crujiente, gel de limón, gel de jitomate, y migajas). Alonso also will create a vegetarian course for those who do not eat fish. The evening’s ethereal dessert will be Arias’s chocolate torte filled with caramelized pecans and vanilla “clouds,” (tarta de chocolate Colombiano rellena de nuez caramelizada en nube de vainilla de Papantla).

Olvera opened Pujol not long after finishing his studies at the Culinary Institute of America. Pujol was the first Mexican restaurant with a Mexican chef to crack The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, jumping 13 places to number 36 within a matter of one year.

Since 2004, Olvera has been a recognized force on the world’s culinary stage. Accolades include Catadores magazine’s “Chef of the Year” award; the CANIRAC (Mexico’s National Chamber for the Restaurant and Prepared Food Industry) “Chef of the Year” award, which Olvera has won twice; Chilango magazine’s “Chef of the Decade” award; and recognition as one of the “10 Most Promising Figures in World Cuisine” by Food and Wine magazine, which is one of the world’s most recognized gastronomy publications. Also on the American front, Olvera has been recognized by Travel & Leisure magazine, which cited Pujol with its ‘Best Tasting Menu” and “Best of the Best” prizes in its special “Gourmet Awards” issue of 2011.

Olvera is the author of Uno (One), a book presenting the history and philosophy behind his work and marking Pujol’s tenth year of serving Mexican haute cuisine. Olvera has now turned his focus to a personal approach that continues to bear his signature obsession with detail but experiments with both contemporary and millennia-old culinary techniques. His newest book En la Milpa (In the Field) that was published late last year, represents a first approach to this new creative period.

This past spring, Canal 11 TV México began broadcasting Diario de un Cocinero (Chef’s Diary), an eight-episode series in which celebrated documentarian Juan Carlos Rulfo gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the culinary artistry of Olvera and his restaurant Pujol.

Biarritz (France)-born Mikel Alonso and his partner Bruno Oteiza share more than a Basque heritage. They are disciples of Juan Mari Arzak, considered to be one of the great masters of New Basque cuisine and founder of Tezka Zona Rosa, where Alonso and Oteiza both worked before opening Biko.

Biko is Basque for “pair.” The restaurant’s name symbolizes both the chefs’ partnership and the menu. “We do Basque-Mexican fusion,” Alonso explains, “but it is better defined as the cuisine of two Basque guys who have lived in Mexico for over a decade and create with mestizo products, techniques, and identity.”

Alonso became a master chef through a somewhat circuitous but serendipitous route. Summer vacations spent helping his grandparents prepare traditional Basque recipes heightened his awareness of aromas and flavors, but a career in chemical engineering was his aspiration. He obtained a diploma in industrial chemical engineering, but then returned to his young passion, earning a diploma at the renowned Escuela de Cocina Luis Irizar in San Sebastián, Spain. A work scholarship from that institution brought him to Mexico, where he cooked at the Basque Center and ultimately at Tezka, the key transforming experience from which sprang Biko.

Alonso’s strong grounding in research and science through the study of chemical engineering coupled with his extensive knowledge of culinary preparation and evolutionary cooking techniques are a winning combination for gastronomic creativity. He and Oteiza developed the molecular cuisine of Cocina de Autor, the signature restaurant of the AAA Five Diamond Award Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen that both Food and Wine and Travel & Leisure magazines rate as among the top 100 food and drink experiences in the world.

An early interest in baking at the age of eight led Arias to taking several courses in French pastries in her hometown of Mexico City. This was followed by a crash course in pastry and chocolate at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). It was there that she realized her hobby could become a career. After graduating high school and a short stint working at the AAA Five Diamond Award Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, Arias returned to the CIA and earned a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in baking and pastry arts management. She then moved to New York, following her husband-to-be and Jaso partner Jared Reardon, and joining Daniel Boulud’s team at his three Michelin star Relais & Château member restaurant Daniel.

“The Daniel experience was amazing,” she said. I was able to work with such top chefs as chocolate master Thomas Haas, executive pastry chefs Johnny Luizinni and François Payard as well as Daniel. They taught me different techniques of the art of pastry, the spirit of perseverance, and the concept of culinary perfection. I learned to pursue my passion through discipline, teamwork, and most importantly commitment and determination to achieve any goal.”

Arias left Daniel to join David Bouley at Danube, where she honed her skills in helping create the wonderful flavors and textures of Austrian pastries and desserts. From there, she moved to Bouley, where she and Reardon worked together for the first time. The couple moved to Mexico City in 2005 and opened Jaso a year later.

Spirit of Hope is limited to 200 guests. In addition to the three-course meal, wine, light beverages and coffee-tea service, the ticket covers a pre-dinner champagne and hors d’oeuvre hour, dancing to the music of Mannix, all-evening transportation to and from the event, and a program of “Neat Temptations for a Cause.” Sponsors of the evening include American Airlines, ArtPrint Express, BajioGO, Cafe Gourmet Express, Casa Don Ramón, the Corcoran College of Art + Design, Don Pedro Grupo Ferreterro, Hotel Bahía de la Luna of Oaxaca, Los Senderos, and Rosewood San Miguel de Allende. The gala benefit, which marks the completion of the 50th house, will help Casita Linda to continue its mission of building homes that offer dignified, safe and empowering environments to provide a foundation of hope for families living in extreme poverty in the San Miguel area.

For ticket and other gala information, please contact Casita Linda at info@casitalinda.org.


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