What was the first meal you ever learned to prepare?
I grew up in Chile, where traditionally the mother and sister do the cooking. Men barbecue, so that was the first thing I learned to do. But even at a young age, I was watching my mother prepare things. Meals are different in Chile; they revolve around family and ceremony. Everyone sits down at the table for every meal.
Did you immigrate to the United States as an aspiring chef?
No. The first job I could find in Boston after I immigrated in 1991 was as a prep cook. Six months later, I was working with Todd English at Harvest in Harvard Square, and five years later I was a chef there. Then I went to culinary school at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, and after that I ended up in South Africa working as a chef for Dario de Angeli at his restaurant Yum.
How has your background—from Chile to South Africa—influenced your cuisine?
Chilean cuisine is a mixture of Spanish and German flavors, because we were colonized by Spain but had many German settlers. Spanish and German food is incredibly simple. Some may call it plain, but I like how every food group in a meal is recognizable and tastes like it should. South Africa was similar. Food there isn't showy; the flavors are strong and pure. They complement each other. I picked up French technique in culinary school, but I strive to create meals that are simple. Some chefs overdo things; they get trapped with many ingredients and no real results. I like my dishes fresh, simple, and tasty.