Diego Texera: Ingredients have the stage in my cuisine
Pictures Diego Jose Texera
How have you handled in your cuisine changes over time? You, coming from a little town like Choroní, and now living in Miami and its culinary variety. How do you reinvent yourself in taste and dishes?
When you start a business like this bistro in the US, you learn not about the profession but about reinvention and abilities like adapting yourself, listening to people, visiting restaurants, and listening to the radio to define what “gourmet” means to customers in Florida.
I adapted my understanding of gourmet here. My culinary concepts grew up, and my ability to do more with less and the respect for ingredients. I found readings that nurture me on the way.
I opened the restaurant Casabe 305 five years ago. It was meant to be a place of natural Latin and Caribbean food. However, I had to ease my macrobiotic chef origins. I studied it as an Eastern medicine technique, created to adapt meals for a healthier life.
…And you arrived to the United States, a country with a serious eating disorder.
Yes, many ingredients have low quality, but I must say, I have found extraordinary suppliers. Now, ingredients have the stage in my cuisine, and I feel more confident.
How do you understand and learn about the tastes of that unknown diner?
In my cuisine, I start from primary flavors, tastes from your culture, those you tried first. That’s how I get a real base and draw the attention of those diners because that is their physiological, spiritual and cultural DNA. When you take into account those flavors, you pay more attention to your meal. I love serving dishes while people are talking and see how after chewing 30 seconds, they stay quiet finding out flavors that they hadn’t taste in some time.
When you have the five flavors that are part of the Chinese philosophy in any dish, your brain classifies what you are eating and recognizes it as nutrition, not entertainment.
I am not in the entertainment industry but the nutrition one. As a Chef, I evoke sensations and memories in diners, instead of surprise them with creativity.
Do you work on the childhood memory, because childhood slips away at some moment?
Memory never leaves. When I play with oat, rice, or prepare a black roast as it was done before, I evoke that. So people are delighted and invite their relatives to the restaurant.
Are we living a movement as Peru did with Gastón Acurio?
We need to study and create a flag. The Chef, Carlos García has this line I love where he says “Cooking is culture,” and he is right. However, culture is not a trend, but our biology. It is the habit of repeating something enough times. Humans, tribes or communities repeat something because it has health benefits for people. In the old days, people didn’t eat for pleasure, but to get energy and move their bodies.
Today, we find more details in kitchens, even poetry.
I remember Choroní when the old houses became inns. Polo Casanova began a movement with the Cotoperix Hotel, and it spread like wildfire. A new industry was born, like in Spain in the postwar period with the “Bed & Breakfast.” That movement placed us over most of Latin American Countries with the most beautiful and inventive inns, where Venezuelans have shown all their creativity, good taste and the pride in doing it right.
Something similar will happen in gastronomy in the next ten years. There are dedicated people working and helping with this, like Professor José Rafael Lovera, Miro Popic, and Rafael Cartay. They are our references, but also they are fun, tasteful, cultured, accessible and active writers. Thanks to them, we are going to achieve the desired results, and it is to get respect for our traditions.
Is Venezuelan cuisine a challenge to others?
I can give you an example, my black roast isn’t red at all. It was one of my first recipes for this dish. It came from the Valeri family specifically from Antonia Bolívar. The hardest thing to learn was how to brown the beef in Papelón (whole cane sugar). At first, I did it with oil, then oil and papelón, sugar, but I never got it. One day, I came up with the idea of preparing a sugar cane syrup and with the hot syrup and the pot where I used to cook this roast, I found how to cook it to perfection.
Give me an example of what these ingredients have to say.
Ok, let’s talk about duck cutlets. I find these good-quality small ducks that have exercised or flown; they are beautiful. As the size is different, I have to change the cooking technique. People in Florida don’t like raw flesh, so I had to find a different cooking temperature because they have lower fat content than those I used to cook in Venezuela.
In this case, I prepare the duck at a lower temperature, so it can preserve more of its fat, but I still get that crunchy coating and don’t add sauce. When cooking a little more time, the duck tastes a bit like Foie Gras. I have never felt that taste in a cutlet before. That is one example of how worthy ingredients make you adapt your cooking techniques.
Does geography have influence in those changes?
In Caracas, you are over 900 meters, so you have the feeling of cooking at the same temperature but here, at sea level, everything cooks faster and you need less water.
Do you have an Eastern branch in your culinary vision?
Yes, it is comprehensive, as the influence of French cuisine in our primary gastronomy. If a dish is a bit sweet, salty, tart, bitter and acid, your body feels happy of finding all those flavors. But you cannot add many different sauces because diners lose interest.
You have to keep away from food agents and prefab foods. That’s why this restaurant is a Bistro because we prepare dishes daily with fresh ingredients from the local market.
How is it possible to reinvent Venezuelan gastronomy from the discipline of Armando Scannone?
I have a huge respect for Scannone. I prepare his recipes, but I simplify them. However, its work on consolidating our culture is impressive. So that younger generations learn about Venezuelan gastronomy through his books, because it cannot be found everywhere. Remember that Venezuelans never developed a commercial gastronomy. Venezuelans didn’t open restaurants, just a few, but Europeans did and created versions of the local cuisine. They opened ‘Areperas’ and restaurants of Venezuelan food, but they served ‘Pabellón Criollo’ creating a culture of Creole cuisine in restaurants.
It was so well done that nowadays that’s our standard reference. Some recipes were left behind because they didn’t understand them or they didn’t get the feel to prepare them. That’s the case of the Chucho, Chalupas, Polvorosas de Gallina, Rabo Encendido, among others, but we never were curious of making those dishes.
Today, all Chefs are working on their culture. Sumito, for example, is a media figure that has done much good to this profession.
Tell us about your new projects
Well, I have been working with Julio Neri, uploading videos in YouTube with some recipes. Now, I am going to create a channel, just with recipes, and I want to start a school for pregnant women. So that they find support in the project of feeding their family and being a guide in improving health habits and avoid those unhealthy trends that all families have.
Commercial manipulation is huge when it comes to the feeding of children. Candies are the worst they can have, but we as parents keep giving them to our children, I mean we are not aware of what we are doing.
We need a revolution to handle what we put in our bodies in a different way.
Well, you as chefs express through dishes so every dish is a truth.
1762 Coral Way