Introduced to the world of cooking as a youngster, Daniel Hurtado, Chef de Cuisine – Hotel Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights, realized his passion for the culinary arts and decided to make a career out of it. So while his friends were still trying to figure out what to do in life, Daniel already had his first cooking assignment at age 19, and the rest as they say is culinary history!
The TravelRasoi Team on its recent visit to Dubai happened to meet up with the Chef at the one year old La Tablita Restaurant at Hotel Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights. As we entered the Hotel Lobby, we could feel the Christmas mood already setting in. A large Christmas tree stood in the middle of the lobby gazing at the people clicking photographs beside it. For the first time ever an indoor Christmas market was set up at the Hotel which will run till December 26th, 2016 to offer something different to its guests. Lara Keijzer who came to take us to Chef Daniel told us that the stollen, gingerbread cookies, chocolate cookies available at the market were all home-made and the guests visiting took a great liking to this innovative concept.
We were then ushered inside the restaurant and there we sat with the Chef talking and having a sumptuous Mexican dinner especially curated by him, which we enjoyed to our heart’s content. An excerpt from the interview –
Please tell us about your journey as a chef. What influenced you to become a chef? Can you recall the first dish you have prepared as a chef?
We are three brothers and a sister in the family and we were taken care by my Mom, who happened to be a single mother. So my Mom used to be my mother and father both at the same time. When we were in school, I used to look after my little brother as my Mom had to go out for work. Preparing food was one of my duties that I was entrusted upon. I was only 11-12 years at that time and my brother was 6-7 years. So I started cooking from a very young age. I remembered my first dish was scrambled eggs and it was burnt.
I always try to popularize the best food from my culture. Before Dubai I was in Caribbean and in my first dish itself, I was trying my hand at sea food. It is a Latin American cuisine called Ceviche which is made out of sea fish available locally in the coastal areas. It is a popular dish in the coastal regions of Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Perú and other parts of Latin America.
I am 33 years now and I have been in this industry since I was 19. So it’s been 14 years that I have been a part of this profession. I started off as a cook assistant in a restaurant in Mexico City. I worked there for 2 years and then travelled to Spain for a year where I undertook my culinary training. When I went back to Mexico, I joined the hotel industry and started working for it. I joined the Hyatt Group 2 years back. Before Hyatt, I was 3 and half years working for Sugar Beach, Viceroy Resort at Saint Lucia (Caribbean). So it’s been a long journey for me as a chef.
During my 2 years at Hyatt I have travelled the most in my life; like recently I have been to India (Delhi), and now again going to Goa for an engagement program.
How challenging is this profession for a newcomer? What kind of roadblocks have you seen in the course of your career and how did you overcome them?
If you do a reality check, you will understand that it is very hard to survive in the industry in the initial days, unlike what is shown in some of the reality cooking shows on TV. Working for 14-16 hours inside the kitchen is no joke. Sometimes you are even required to spend the whole night after working tirelessly the entire day. You have to have the passion to work if you want to sustain in this line of work.
When I first started, I was made to work with people who had 19-20 years of culinary experience. There have been many good as well as bad experiences for me working with them, but I always cherish the learnings I have had from them. It has been a good place to learn things. Most importantly I got a good mentor under whom I had learnt new things and got good guidance. I try to forget the bad things thinking them as a bad phase of my life.
You have been under the guidance of Chef Carlos for close to 10 years and most probably have learnt a lot from him. How does it feel today to run one of the successful Mexican restaurants here in Dubai?
Absolutely we are one of the best restaurants here in Dubai today and it feels awesome to be a part of such a successfully running restaurant. Well, I met Chef Carlos many years back at Mexico and then we had lost contact when I moved to the Caribbean. Surprisingly Carlos contacted me and spoke to me about opening this restaurant and that is how I am here.
What would be the significant moments that proved to be key turning points in your life?
It has already been a challenge to come and settle in some other country, away from your homeland. When I first came to Dubai I was a bit sceptical too about my adjustment issues. There have been more good than bad moments in my career and that I think has helped me to push forward my passion and love for this profession. But if you call my most significant moment, then I think my days at Caribbean and working under my Boss there has been very special. He taught me things which I try to follow even today. He always told me to love whatever I am doing and develop keen interest in learning about new things. I think that has been my biggest lesson till date.
What is your specialty as a chef (in terms of both food & drinks)?
My specialty dish is Ceviches and I have tried it with vegetables and not just with sea fish. My speciality apart from Mexican food is both Spanish and French cuisine. I have travelled to France twice to learn about their food; the ingredients used and even the elegant presentation styles.
Since you have been associated with this industry for many years now, how do you find the food world evolving with time with respect to the cooking style, the food habits of your customers and most importantly the ingredients used in the food? Has it been a drastic change?
Of course cooking style has evolved as per new trends but interestingly we are now going back to simpler food. Customers are willing to pay more for that real taste and real food. They do not prefer too much of complications in the food style. And it is happening everywhere. They want the food that we normally eat at home. Even here at La Tablita, we try to make everything taste like home-made; you take the Tortilla (Mexican chapati) which we have tried to keep simple and believe me this is what today’s customers ask for.
What is your opinion about Indian food? Which is the best Indian food for you? (Optinal: Have you ever visited India or have plans to visit?)
Butter Chicken is my favourite Indian dish. I also like Biryani, Paneer, Aloo Parantha, Paani Poori. I have visited just Delhi and Goa in India but I did get to experience all these wonderful food. I even tried street food while in Delhi. I have many Indian friends and I am learning to prepare Aloo Parantha from them. I have in my menu Paneer Taco, in which I have combined both Indian and Mexican food.
Do you prepare food at home? What is your favourite home food?
I normally don’t, but if I get time I do try to pamper myself to some simple food like salads and sandwiches. I try to keep my home food as simple as possible. But I love to eat outside too and I go out for food very often. Apart from Mexican cuisine I like the Japanese cuisine too.
What is your favourite pastime?
I used to very over weight at some point in my life and so even now I make sure to hit the gym regularly. So yes, gyming is one of my pastimes. My hobbies are reading and watching good Mexican movies.
What message would you like to give someone trying to be in this profession?
There is no short cut to success in this career and so my message would be to the budding professionals is that if you want to be into this profession, patience is all you need to have. It is not a 9-5 job that you can set a schedule as you might be required any time.
What is your signature dish? Could you share with us more about it.
My signature dish is tres leches in dessert and for main dish it is veracruzana.
|ZEALANDIA SPONGE MIX||1000GM|
|TRES LECHES SYRUP:-|
|CONDENSED MILK||02 CANT|
|EVAPORATED MILK||03 CANT|
|VANILLA BEAN||½ PC|
|WHITE SUGAR||400 GM|
|ALMONT SLICE||400 GR|
|CHILE JALAPENO CONFIT:-|
|CHILE JALAPENO||15 PCS|
|BASIC SUGAR SYRUP||500ML|
CHILE JALAPENO ICE CREAM:-
SPONGE – MIX ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS USING AN ELECTRIC WHISK. POUR THE MIXTURE INTO FRAME. BAKE AT 180C FOR TILL GOLDEN BROW COLOR15-25 MINUTES
TRES LECHES SYRUP- MIX ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS TOGETHER AND WARM IT.
CREAM- WHIP THE CREAM ON MIXING MACHINE WITH VANILLA BEAN.
PUT INTO THE PIPING BAG.
NOUGATS- MAKE A CARAMEL OUT OF SUGAR AND ADD ALMOND FLAKE, GIVE SHAPE.
CHILE JALAPENO CONFIT- CHOPPED THE CHILLY INTO JULIENNE. BLANCED3 TIMES IN THE PLAIN WATER AND LAST ONE WITH SUGAR SYRUP.
CHILE JALAPENO ICE CREAM- PREPARE LIKE AN ANGLAISE, COOL DOWN. COVER WITH CLING FILM AND LET MATURE FOR MINIMUM 6 HOURS. MIX AGAIN BEFORE PLACING INTO THE ICE CREAM MACHINE AND ADD JALAPENO CONFIT. STORE IN THE FREEZER AT -18 C
MERINGUE- EGG WHITE AND SUGAR WHISK TOGETHER. AND PIPE THEM INTO DROP. BAKE AT LOW HEAT 80C FOR OVERNIGHT.
FOR ASSEMBLE- CUT THE SPONGE INTO 9CM X 8 CM, SOAKED INTO SYRUP. PIPE THE WHIP CREAM ON TOP OF SPONGE. PUT ON TOP ONE SCOOP OF JALAPENO ICE CREAM AND GARNISH WITH PISTACHIO POWDER, RED VELVET POWDER, ALMOND FLAKE, MERINGUE AND CHILLY CONFIT.
– Anjali Sethi Joshi / Samrita Baruah