Enrique Olvera – Chef / Owner of Pujol and Cosme
Enrique Olvera is widely regarded as the best Mexican chef in the world today. Olvera has elevated Mexican fine cuisine to a new level and has attained superstar status along the likes of Ferran Adrià (el Bulli), René Redzepi (Noma) and Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken).
Olvera was born in Mexico in 1976 and discovered his love for cooking at his grandparent’s pastry shop in Mexico City. He pursued his passion for cooking by enrolling at nineteen in the culinary program at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Shortly after finishing his formal culinary education, he returned to Mexico City and in 2000 opened his first restaurant, Pujol. Since opening Pujol, Olvera has opened a number of popular restaurants in Mexico and, in late 2014, opened Cosme in New York City.
Photos courtesy of Pujol and Cosme
Pujol, a tiny 13-table restaurant in the tony residential neighborhood of Polanco of Mexico City, has received worldwide accolades, including being named among the top twenty restaurants on S. Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. The restaurant has a restrained elegance with dark walls and flattering lighting highlighting the tables. At Pujol, Olvera serves a multi-course menu that reinterprets and elevates traditional Mexican dishes. Rather than offering a traditional wine paring, Olvera offers a beverage pairing with the tasting menu that includes hand-crafted beer, Mexican wine, mezcal and aquas frescas (a light fruit based drink popular in Mexico).
The menu changes several times a year but there are a couple of signature dishes that are always on the menu: Elotitos Tatemados con mayonesa de Café y Polvo de Chicatana (Smoked baby corn with coffee mayonnaise dusted with ant powder) and Mole Madre (Mole cooked for over 700 days with a portion of new mole in the middle served with simple hand-made corn tortillas). These two dishes provide a window into how Olvera’s creative process reinterprets traditional Mexican dishes.
In Olvera’s new cookbook, Mexico from the Inside Out, he describes how a visit to a coffee plantation in Oaxaca served as the inspiration for his delicious Smoked Baby Corn appetizer. At the coffee plantation, which was enveloped in mist during his visit, he was drawn to the smells of roasted corn and a salsa made of onion, tomatoes, chile costeno, onion and chicatana ant. At Pujol, Olvera translates that experience into a botana, a welcoming appetizer, which is inspired by the popular Mexican street food of roasted corn with mayonnaise lime and chile and served in a dried gourd filled with smoldering corn husks that, when opened, allows smoke to escape like the mist in Oaxaca and releases the complex aromas of roasted corn, coffee and chiles.
His other signature dish, Mole Madre, is his reinvention of Mole, one of the staples of Mexican cuisine. Traditional mole is a sauce made of chocolate with dried chiles, nuts, tomato and garlic usually served over chicken. Olvera’s mole is probably the most complex and rich mole you will ever find since he has created a “mother mole” (just like a baker’s mother starter) that continues to develop and evolve as he adds new mole each day to the mother mole base (it is now over 700 days old). The flavors are so pure that it is served with nothing more than fresh corn tortillas.
Pujol offers the world’s best contemporary Mexican cuisine and is an experience not to be missed.
Pujol // Calle Francisco Petrarca 254, Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco, Mexico City // Website
Olvera opened Cosme in New York City's flatiron district in late 2014 and it quickly became an overnight sensation. Cosme offers a contemporary Mexican-inspired cuisine that utilizes local and seasonal ingredients from the Hudson Valley and surrounding region.
The restaurant is beautifully designed with a modern but comfortable aesthetic. The front of the restaurant includes café seating and a long bar that has a very creative drink menu and an extensive list of tequilas. The dark walls of the main dining nicely frame the warm light oak tabletops highlighted by spot lights.. Managing a uber-popular New York restaurant is no easy task but Gonzalo Gout, the talented general manager, makes it seem easy.
Cosme is not a traditional Mexican restaurant and the inspirations for Olvera’s dishes may come from Copenhagen or Lima as much as from Mexico. For example, his thinly sliced raw fish with green almond kosho and fish sauce would feel right at home in one of Lima’s top restaurants. Some of the standout dishes include Uni tostada, avocado, bone marrow salsa, cucumber and his famous Husk Meringue, which was inspired by Olvera’s childhood memories of meringues from one of Mexico City’s famous pastry shops. The meringue is made with burnt corn husk leaves and filled with a corn mousse made with corn puree that is blended with heavy cream and mascarpone cheese.
Cosme // 35 East 21st Street, New York City // Website