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Combining the best of traditional Mexican and modern French cuisine, Guillermo González Beristáin’s Pangea restaurant stands at No.13 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Opened in 1998 in Monterrey, its imaginative use of local ingredients and contemporary European techniques won it a large and enthusiastic following, and gave rise to a growing empire of restaurants throughout northeast Mexico.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Beristáin is a proud advocate of Mexico’s culinary heritage, and is committed to raising its profile around the world.
How has the food scene in Mexico changed in the last 10 to 20 years?
The most influential restaurants in Mexico are now commanded by Mexican chefs, and not by foreigners, as it was years ago. They are cooking mostly Mexican food and feeling proud of it.
Is cooking seen as a more respectable profession in Latin America than it used to be?
By far, chefs are now well respected and seen as an example.
People often think Mexican food is too spicy, or they confuse it with Tex-Mex – how much of a challenge is it to change perceptions of Mexican food around the world?
Really well made Mexican food is not too spicy. Chillies should be used as a complement; they should not overwhelm the dish or the palate. It's a great challenge because Tex Mex, which is a regional food of the US, has gained popularity around the world for several reasons: its ingredients are readily available, its easy to make and US chains have popularised it worldwide. But it’s very distant from Mexican food.
Tell us about some of your favourite Mexican ingredients to work with.
Probably corn or masa dough. It's the heart and soul of Mexican cooking. It does not recognise or exclude people by education or social standing. Regarding corn in Mexico, it's a true democracy.
Why is it so important to keep Mexican cooking traditions alive?
We should know our traditions in order to move forward, not only in cooking, but as a society.
What new projects are you involved with at the moment?
I’m opening three restaurants in the next year and finally building my winery in my hometown of Ensenada.