Chef Alfredo Perez Gomez, Signature Five Diamond Award Restaurant Carolina
Chef Alfredo Perez Gomez recently joined the resort’s culinary team as head chef at Carolina, St. Regis’ AAA Five Diamond Award signature Carolina Restaurant. The story of 29-year old Gomez’s determination and hard work tells how he became an extraordinary chef who has now come home to showcase his talents.
Alfredo began working at age 6, selling Chiclets on the street in his hometown of Lagos de Moreno,Mexicowhere he grew up with his parents and 7 siblings. He spoke with pride of his family’s culinary legacy; a six-generation mole recipe passed down from his great, great grandmother. Little did he know his work and learned skills in a slaughterhouse at age 12 would prove to be seminal in launching an illustrious culinary career.
At 17 Gomez made his way across the border and traveled toChicagowhere he landed a job as dishwasher in Gilbert’s restaurant. His fate was sealed when an encounter with a Soups Chef turned the tide. While watching this chef cutting meat, Alfredo was visibly upset. The ensuing exchange as related by Gomez is the stuff of dreams. “I got in trouble at my first job in Chicago. You must respect an animal even when cutting it up and not waste anything.” The confrontation ended when the chef handed his apron and knives to Alfredo, challenging him to do a better job of butchering. He rose to the challenge, cutting the second loin 1.5 lbs more than his boss. From that moment, his job as dishwasher was over. He took his place as prep cook and nine years later Alfredo was executive sous chef, creating daily menus at the four-diamond restaurant.
His career subsequently has included chef atChicago’s Michelin Takashl Restaurant, creating new cuisine, and a list of personal culinary events including the “Taste of Chicago”. His community involvement is most impressive. “Teaching culinary in classroom and kitchen at Badger High School,Geneva,WI, I helped lead them to four state championships.” In 2008 they won the National Culinary Championship.
I met Corey, a Wolfgang Puck Chef and friend of Alfredo’s, who was in the area for the XVIII Festival Gourmet. “InChicagohe is known as Forte, meaning strong with strength of character and determination,” Corey said of Alfredo.
I tasted Alfredo’s creations during dinner at Las Marietas restaurant where he was cooking that night (Carolina Restaurant, was open only Thursday, Friday and Saturday during my visit). The evening was uncharacteristically warm and humid for mid-November and the meal sizzled. We spoke a bit prior to dining and I left it in Gomez’s capable hands to choose, create, prepare and present the meal. Although he kept to the menu items, it was apparent he had added his own artistic flair to each dish.
Seared Tuna (sockeye) with Mexican salsa (onion, cilantro, beets, octopus tentacle tips (small, cut into ½ inch pieces) with taco chips was first up.
Pozole, a traditional Mexican family-meal, a soup made from a broth of habanero chili and containing fish, shrimp, and scallop, served with sides of limes, oregano, and pepper, followed.
The final dish was boneless short ribs served with grilled vegetables, mashed potatoes and flavored with cotija cheese & parsley. The serving was grilled with a dry chili rub, then slowly cooked in a broth of three chilies (arbol, pasilla, guajillo) and finally put in the oven to slow bake for several hours. It took considerably less time for me finish.
A bottle of 2009 Casa Madero Grande Chardonnay was lovely with the tasty and enjoyable meal.
As it turned out, my meal at Las Marietas was but a precursor to the next night’s dinner at Carolina where Forte, the strong one, is now principal chef.
I met up with other St. Regis guests at Carolina and joined a charming couple from New York City with whom I had exchanged brief conversations during the week. It was like being with family, as we made selections together and shared, tasted and discussed each of the dishes.
I had anticipated a wonderful meal but it still took me by surprise. It was exceptional. The parade of amazing aromas, textures and palate pleasing dishes included:
Asparagus on a tart with parmesan reggiano, black truffle and Jabugo ham foam
Foie Gras in hibiscus flower jelly, served with confit figs terrine
Cannelloni, fresh pasta stuffed with artichoke, lobster, foie gras and truffle, Jabugo ham foam Goat Cheese, Crispy and creamy, basil bavaroise, tomato concasse and arugula salad
Sea-bass filet with champagne, sabayon, parsley puree, baby vegetables
Steamed Dover Sole with lemon, fava beans puree and vegetables sautéed in ginger, comfit lime
Herb crusted roast lamb, dauphine potatoes with chipotle chili, tagliache olives and tomato sauce
Hot chocolate fondant, gianduja crème brulee, and crunchy napoleon
Poached Anjou pear sable almond cream and vanilla of Papantla
Carolina Restaurant is an upscale dining establishment with attentive and relaxed service. Elegant dining is offered inside or al fresco, where one can choose from a line-up of dishes: seafood, meat or vegetarian, and a multi-course tasting menu.
Perez has taken his place alongside the star-studded team of gastronomic magicians at St Regis Punta Mita. He will no doubt be a super-star.
Alfredo is gentle, mild mannered, soft spoken and sensitive. Quite obviously, cooking is Alfredo’s passion. It seems to come from somewhere deep within him. No doubt, the guest experience is on the front burner of this man’s kitchen.