One of the Twin Cities’ most exciting chefs, Jorge lives up to his James Beard nomination for Best Chef with his expertly crafted food—which earned his Brewer’s Table at Surly Brewing a Food & Wine nod as one of the top 10 restaurants of the year. After its closure, Jorge lived through what he acknowledges was one of the toughest periods of his life, living paycheck to paycheck to support his family. He’s since found his footing in a big way at his new restaurant Sueño in Dayton, Ohio; and at Petite León, one of Minneapolis’ most buzzy new restaurants, where he mixes the food of his childhood with fine dining flare.
And it is those childhood influences that drive Jorge. He was born in Mexico City and raised in Mérida and the Yucatán, before relocating to St Louis when he was five. The summers he spent in Mérida, surrounded by his grandmother, aunts and cousins around the big family table, give him a deep connection to the region and its cooking traditions. “It’s hard to convey the emotion I have for Mérida over written word. It is my home.” Yet Jorge doesn’t like to be pigeonholed as a chef that does ‘Mexican’ food. On the Petite León menu, you’ll find Portuguese linguiça and a roasted beet salad spiked with a dry chili-garlic and caraway seasoning from Libya, as well as Yucatecan family staples like cochinita pibil or pozole Yucateco made with heirloom hominy corn—its rich flavor emanating from a base of schmaltz and chili oil, choices that would make any Mexican or Jewish grandmother proud.
My brother and I are the only ones in my family that moved away from Mexico at a young age. It is why I have such a longing for it and such a connection to it.
I realized what Dominique Crenn says is true for me—it’s by cooking that I can access my memories, the food and the people, the aesthetic and the smells. It’s just very visceral for me.