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Maria José Jordan of Manifiesto restaurant in Lima, Peru, is the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 Latin America and Caribbean region region finalist. The Peruvian chef-de-partie is the only female chef appearing at the Grand Final the 26th of June, in Milan, where she will showcase her signature dish of Immortal Technique: Citrus, Rosemary, Gin. She spoke to us ahead of the big event.
Tell us about your signature dish.
All the individual ingredients in my dish are very strong, whether it’s the cidra, which is just natural fruit, to the sugar decoration, which is much more technical and complex. In that case, I’d say my dish’s strongest point is its balance. Its flavours are harmonious, and it uses classic and modern techniques.
What made you decide to become a chef?
I'm not really sure. I remember cooking with my grandma and father since I was really small, and liking it a lot. Then watching cooking shows and making my own dinner when I was 15. After high school, I knew what I wanted to do. It's not rare for a Peruvian to want to become a cook. Food is very important in Peru.
Which chef or chefs inspire you daily and why?
First of all, a former boss and teacher of mine: Malcolm Livingston II. I was lucky enough to get a chance to work with him at WD-50. Also: Alex Stupak (a genius and total misfit); Jordan Kahn (his dishes are just beautiful); Michael Laiskonis (his work is technically impeccable, he's a punk rocker, and an amazing writer).
What’s the best dish you’ve ever tasted - where did you eat it, who cooked it?
It was at Normand Laprise’s Toqué in 2011. The dessert was very simple, but the flavour combination was something I had never seen before in my life. Peaches and black olives, it was so delicious, I couldn’t believe it - almost an epiphany that gave me an idea on how I wanted my food to be.
What’s the most challenging aspect of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 for you?
I’m pretty sure we all had to struggle to get where we are, but the hardest part is always trying to keep up with expectations and maintaining a certain level in our work. What’s happening now is mostly fun, and it’s a nice reminder that I’ve made good life decisions and that I’m good at what I love doing.
What kind of help/guidance would you like from your mentor?
Ideas for improvement are always welcome, but I think what I expect the most from the chef that’s going to spend time with me is motivation. It helps to have someone enthusiastic close to you. Someone that reminds you that you’re doing alright and you can crush it, that’s always good.
What will you do if you win this competition?
Just to keep learning. I want to keep cooking and travelling for as long as I can, it’s what makes me happy. Europe has been a dream for me since I started working in kitchens, so that’s going to be my next move for sure. Somewhere I can learn all the classic techniques: Chocolate, Sugar Work, Viennoiserie, Ice cream, etc.