In an interview with Chef Alejandro Morgan, Emmanuel Laroche, Symrise’s Vice President, Marketing & Consumer Insights, Global Marketing Leader, discussed how the Chef’s Costa Rican background influenced his menus at his San Francisco restaurants. Chef Morgan is the Executive Chef at Lolinda (lolindasf.com), the Argentinean inspired steakhouse. In his rooftop restaurant, Chef Morgan and his staff offer Costa Rican favorites and popular choices from other Latin American countries – all with a modern flair, but deliciously authentic.
Can you tell us how your heritage influenced your career?
I was born in San Josè, Costa Rica, and as with most cooks, how and where you grew up always stays with you, influencing you. There’s your grandparents’ cooking, your neighbors’ cooking and the restaurant you went to as a kid. So whether you’re from France, Argentina, Costa Rica, wherever – it’s something you carry with you all the time. I worked at a Japanese restaurant for a while before I first started my restaurant and felt kind of out of it because I hadn’t prepared my native food for so many years. But once I began to cook it again, it became so natural.
Do you feel connected to your heritage?
I feel very connected. I am very happy here at the San Francisco location, since we are very much in a Latino neighborhood. The first time I came to the Mission District, I felt as though I was still in San Josè. The smells of all the fried foods, all the colors on the street are very much a part of my culture. When I am here at the Mission, I feel at home.
Can you tell us about some of the ingredients and foods from your youth in Costa Rica?
In Latin America in general, we are accustomed to using tropical ingredients and spices like achiote and annatto and to staples like rice and beans. We don’t feature rice and beans much but we translate its flavors into other things – in a bean stew, or another kind of rice that we serve. It’s the same with plantains. We try to offer what is comfortable eating for Latinos, what they would be accustomed to eating in their homes. We do have two restaurants on the property; one is a rooftop, called El Techo de Lolinda. I try to use the foods from Costa Rica there because of the view of San Francisco. There are restaurants in Costa Rica situated in the mountain areas that overlook the city which is set in a valley. I’ve tried to replicate the character of these restaurants in my cooking. A lot of these hilltop restaurants in Costa Rica serve chicharones, which are chunks of pork shoulder that are cooked slowly and deep fried. We serve it with tortillas and black beans.
How do you think American food is being influenced by the Latino culture?
There are many Latino cooks in restaurants across the country, including immigrants from Latin America. Chefs notice that the foods that these cooks prepare for themselves are different, not regular menu items. When Chefs see and taste these creations, they become menu items. In many cases, cooks from different parts of Latin America go on to have restaurants of their own. This happens a lot. Once, I observed that one of our line cooks was cooking Mayan food for himself, and it was absolutely delicious. It ended up that the owner of the restaurant loved the Mayan food so much he opened up a restaurant that focused on these foods.
Follow Lolinda on Twitter: @LolindaSF
Check back next week on in-sight for part 2 of Emmanuel's interview with Chef Morgan!