Guillermo González Beristaín is not only one of Mexico’s best chefs, but he is one of the best in the whole of Latin America. His restaurant “Pangea”, located in Monterrey, was ranked no.19 on the 2016 List of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Such success can only be testament to the chef’s character and determination, something that Beristáin has plenty of.
A foodie from a young age, Beristáin always knew that the kitchen would play a big part in his future. In an interview he told us how he had always liked cooking and experimenting in the kitchen when he was younger – he enjoyed looking for ingredients and seeing what he could come up with. As he grew older his talent for cooking became noticeable and something he couldn’t ignore.
“I’ve always said that a career as a chef is not something you choose
– it chooses you”
At the age of 15 he started working in a restaurant, and that’s when he knew for certain that he wanted to be a chef.
Born and bred in Mexico, Beristáin explained that real traditional Mexican food is one of his favorite types of cuisine, and one that heavily influences many of the menus in his group of seven restaurants, in Monterrey. However, many people may be interested to know that the chef has also been greatly inspired by North American and European cuisines. The original restaurant Pangea was the first of the group to open in 1998 and is based on contemporary and French cuisine.
This variety of influences came after Beristáin spent time studying in New York and working in Europe, but his equal love of Mexican cuisine brought him back to start a business where he could create and serve dishes based both on his home country and everything that inspired him during his travels.
“I spent many years studying and working outside of Mexico, but in the end my country, its ingredients, and the culture called me back”
According to Beristáin, all aspiring chefs should try and work in the industry as soon as possible, even if it is just a weekend or holiday job in a hotel, in order to get a taste for it and affirm your passion. It’s a career that is largely driven by a passion for food and cooking, so you have to make sure it’s definitely the path for you.
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“Many people just see the fun, exciting side of cooking, but it’s also very hard work. So I definitely recommend getting some work experience beforehand”
Every chef has taken their inspiration from somewhere or someone. For Bersitáin, he has found culinary heroes all over the world, the first being fellow Mexican chef Enrique Olvera who is one of the best chefs in the country. He also admires the American chef Thomas Keller whose restaurant “The French Laundry” has been named among the Top 50 Restaurants in the World, and in Europe he acknowledges the well known French chef Pierre Gagnaire.
“In Europe I really admire Pierre Gagnaire. I think he changed and influenced the style of cooking all over the world.”
He goes on to say how Europe as a whole played an important role in the culinary world when he was starting out, and how the influences on chefs in South America have changed.
“I think the chefs of my generation were defined by many European techniques and influences. We always used to look externally to find the best quality and most-cutting edge cooking, which we often found in French techniques.
Today, the Latin American culinary industry is united by a mutual respect and the want to do our job well, and to be the best”
The Mexican culinary industry differs from the rest of Latin America due to it’s proximity to the United States. They border each other and are often linked in people’s minds, so it can be hard to establish Mexican cuisine with a separate, unique identity.
“The downside is it’s been difficult for us to share our cuisine in our own unique ways. However the good thing is that Mexican food is very well known and popular so we get a lot of tourists that come for the food, and fortunately people that move across the border are helping to bring real traditional Mexican cuisine to the United States”
He went on to add that the great climate and gastronomical diversity that Mexico displays is unique and that compared with other countries, Mexico is one of the most varied and complete in terms of cuisine.
In his restaurants, Beristáin uses only the best ingredients. To achieve the best, you have to go fresh – the products that have traveled the least between the farm and your plate is what they look for, so the have to be good quality and locally grown where possible.
“The best ingredients are the ones closest to you because they haven’t traveled so far and they allow you to help the growers who live by you. I don’t see the point in buying products from thousands of miles away if you have the option to buy locally”
Beristáin’s restaurant Pangea offers delicious innovative cuisine from around the world using the freshest local ingredients available. If you’d like to find out more you can visit the website here: http://pangearestaurantandlounge.com/ and be sure to see Beristáin’s and other expert recommendations in Latin America in TheBesty app.