Jorge Guzmán

Chef

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.

Why We Love Jorge Guzmán

Jorge is happiest when a table erupts in laughter, celebrating together over a meal. For him, that’s what Mexican hospitality and cooking is all about.

“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.”

6 Questions with Jorge Guzmán

  1. When you close your eyes and think about the flavors of the Yucatán, what do you see, smell or taste?

    First of all, habaneros. You have to know how to eat habanero to be a Yucateco. It's just the way it is. And savory foods, heavy rich food, earthy flavors. Dishes that take a couple of days to prepare. It's slow food. It's legit slow food. In some ways it's the ultimate slow food.

  2. Your childhood shapes so much of who you are as a chef. What memories can you share?

    I have a lot of memories that are tied to my family and food, and to my grandmother and her house in Mérida. And that's kind of where it all stems from. Everyday life was different, you know, the lunch at 2pm, typically something very savory and filling—it's not like you're eating a sandwich, you're having potaje or cochinita pibil or something that's very traditional.

  3. What are some of the misconceptions people have about food from southern Mexico and the Yucatán?

    It's hard to cook traditional Yucatecan food because it is so different than what people expect of Mexican food. There aren't these crazy salsas like people are used to eating, like ordering tacos in Mexico City and choosing how many different salsas you want. Here it is just tortillas, black beans, cochinita and pickled red onion. These are the four ingredients that I love.

  4. What are the dishes from the Yucatán, the ones we should all know and love but don’t?

    I don’t think anybody knows about papadzules, which are hardboiled egg enchiladas with pumpkin seed sauce and chiltomate. It sounds like it's not going to be good but it's fucking dynamite! And then there's pan de cazón, which is basically dogfish lasagna layered with tortillas, black beans, poached and shredded dogfish and chiltomate. It's basically an enchilada casserole, really different and really good.

  5. When you cook for other people, what's usually on the menu?

    Frijol con puerco. Pork, beans, rice, salsa, fresh tortillas—it's one of my favorite dishes to cook for people.

  6. What makes the culture of the Yucatán so special?

    There's so much influence from outside of Mexico here. There's such heavy influence from the Lebanese, Dutch, Spanish, the Maya, especially the Maya. The Mayan culture is 10,000 years old and yet still super prevalent, and their language is still spoken.

Yucatán with Jorge Guzmán

One Departure Only | September 3 - 8, 2022

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