Q&A: Lourdes Castro
A few weeks ago, I delved into Lourdes Castro’s Latin Grilling then spent the summer more or less living off her recipe for grilled corn and quinoa salad. While the book is full of great recipes, its her well thought out menus and make-ahead advice that stands out. My party planning always falls short of my ambitions so any tips on how to stay out of my own way go far.
For awhile now, I’ve wanted to add more chef-blogger-food people q&a’s to the site. Since September marks Hispanic Heritage month, Lourdes Castro, a Cuban-American chef and teacher, Miami native and some time New York transplant, seemed like the right close-to-home person to start with. At the time of her latest release, Lourdes was kind enough to answer a few questions. Here’s what she had to say about Latin grilling, finding her passion for food, and igniting wooden planks…
HS:How did you decide to make grilling in Latin America the focus of your latest book?
LC:I started out wanting to write a grilling book since I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the technique. The obsession began several years ago when I moved to NYC and was limited to grilling only a few months of the year. Focusing on the flavors of Latin America was somewhat of a given considering my Cuban background and my love of Latin flavors and ingredients. In the end, I set out to write a cookbook that would give the reader an appreciation of the various flavors that coexist in Latin America – as if you grew up like I did in Miami and were invited to eat at your Mexican, Argentinian, or Peruvian friend’s house.
HS: What would most people be surprised to know about Latin American and Caribbean cuisine?
LC: That they are not created equal! While the flavors are vibrant, they are not all fiery. I think that is the biggest misconception. Each country and region has its own distinct flavor and its own culinary history.
HS: When did you decide to follow a culinary career? Was there a specific moment when you realized this is what you wanted to do?
LC:The first day of the first food course I took at NYU I was hooked. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what I was going to do with my degree or even what kind of career I could create, all I knew was that I found my passion.
HS:What’s been your favorite kitchen success? What’s been your favorite kitchen failure?
LC:My favorite kitchen successes are my students. In particular when I get a very novice student (doesn’t matter how old they are), and they realize that they just cooked something pretty fabulous. That is such a satisfying feeling.
This may sound cliché but I embrace all failures because I am able to learn from them. At this point in my career though, kitchen failures are more like mishaps – which are often funny – like igniting a wooden plank on my grill that I was going to smoke a fish on or mis-communicating to my mother that she needed to add 2 canned chipotles to a recipe NOT 2 cans of chipotles.