Food

Dinner with Chef Mario Gonzalez

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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The award-winning Iberostar Chef on Tour series delighted at its latest serving with Mario Gonzalez at Iberostar Rose Hall Grand last Saturday in Montego Bay.

The series copped this year's Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards — Best Chef Dinner honour and has ignited an air of anticipation for each staging. Gonzalez is currently the corporate chef for Iberostar Hotels and Resorts and is based in the US. Prior to his overseas posting he worked alongside Michelin star chefs at El Monasterio Rocamador (1 star), El Chaflan de Juan Pablo Felipe (1 star) and Cocke (2 stars). In 2008, he moved to the world-famous L'Atelier Restaurant by Joel Robuchon in London, whose chef has the greatest number of Michelin stars in the world. Gonzalez, who defines his style as globalised, takes a bit of each country but preserves his gastronomic essence from his native Spain.

“The approach for tonight's menu took its influences from Jamaica, creating a fusion with cuisines out of China, France, Mexico and Spain. We also went for non-traditional influences and fusions; through our use of mangoes, oxtail, ackee and salt fish we maintained the Jamaican influence and sauces with distinctly Asian and French flavours and the Mexican white mole,” Gonzalez explained.

Philipp Hofer, director of operations, Iberostar Jamaica, explained that for this staging they decided to go against the grain of the original format wherein guest chefs were brought in from outside of the resort chain.

“We decided to keep the talent in-house this time around, exposing the wealth of knowledge and skill that we possess on-property. We are highlighting our Jamaican staff and influence. With that we were able to present food that we would not normally see every day. We reached out to our partners and we were able to bring it all together with influences from all over the world. As a matter of fact, the salmon was flown in from Scotland this morning by Rainforest Seafoods expressly for this event,” Hofer stated.

The transitions during the seven courses were professionally handled by the hotel's waitstaff, and reviews of each course by patrons made for animated chatter at the tables for what could easily be described as the best showing, in terms of patron support.

Standout offerings for the night were the egg flower with black truffle, red snapper with Mexican white mole and chocolate textures with rum dessert. But the mango ravioli easily enjoyed the evening's biggest raves. The mango ravioli was actually conceptualised by Gonzalez during his tenure as executive chef at the hotel some seven years ago and was done with a view to incorporating a Jamaican influence in a traditional dish.

No dining experience of this ilk would be complete without wine pairings, and Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ) was tasked to curate the evening's selections. Mike Turner of CPJ explained that the undertaking was somewhat challenging considering the complexity of the dishes, but at the end of the evening table reviews gave high marks for the pairings.

Thursday Food quizzed Corporate Chef Mario Gonzalez as to what influence from Jamaican cuisine he incorporates in his dishes, considering he infuses from all over the world. His favourite is jerk chicken, and guess what? He finds it “the best roast chicken dish” and cannot find one even close to it in terms of colour, texture or taste.

(Text & Photos: Aceion Cunningham)

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