This is part 2 of a 2-Part Symrise Interview with Chef Jesus Delgado of Tanta, Chicago.
Jesus Delgado, executive chef of Tanta in Chicago, maintains a simple and traditional food philosophy, letting the flavors of his ingredients shine. Collaborating with well-known South American Chef Gastón Acurio, Delgado focuses on iconic Peruvian flavors, particularly in cebiches and other seafood-centric plates, created with fresh fish delivered daily at the restaurant. Delgado also crafts lamb, beef, and poultry dishes which highlight the multiculturalism and biodiversity of his native country. “I hope that every one of Tanta’s guests has a one-of-a-kind experience,” he says. “Peruvian cuisine is so inviting and intriguing, with influences from the Pacific Ocean through the Amazon and up to the Andes. At Tanta, our guests can explore all that Peru has to offer, without needing a passport.”
Symrise: Based on your own experience, what is the biggest misconception people have about Latino cuisines?
Chef Delgado: I believe that the biggest misconception may be the spice level on our food. Many people think that our food is spicy; however, that is not always the case. We use different kinds of peppers and different parts of the peppers to adjust the spice level depending on the dish.
S: Peruvian food has all levels of spices. What great Latino/Hispanic dishes/ products are missing from the American marketplace?
CD: We have yet to see many dishes and products that are served in Latin American countries. For me, the products that I would like to be able to get and which I cannot find in our marketplace are those that are found in the Andes and Amazon of Peru, including fruits such as lucuma.
S: What Latino fruit, savory and sweet flavors would you like to see introduced to the US market?
CD: I just referred to lucuma, a fruit that grows on a tree which I believe mainstream consumers might really enjoy. It has a green exterior similar to the skin of an apple with a creamy yellow inside and four big seeds. The taste is somewhat similar to butterscotch when you cook it. However, when you serve it fresh, it has a nut taste profile. It’s a very versatile and delicious fruit.
S: Which of the diverse Latino cuisines are becoming more popular in US restaurants and what do you see as next “big” trend in the US and why it might be more popular than others?
CD: Lately, there has been a lot of noise about Peruvian cuisine here in the US. It has become increasingly popular – right now, it is the ‘in’ cuisine. I think that may be due to the fact Peruvian cuisine features a lot of different taste profiles. That makes it easier for everyone to find the particular taste they enjoy.
S: Can you think of any Latino dishes that would translate well into US packaged food products?
CD: Peruvians eat a lot of stews and soups. I could easily see these translating into packaged, canned and frozen food items with broad appeal.
S: Which vegetables and vegetable-centered dishes stand out in your Latin cuisine?
CD: First and foremost, I would have to say that onions and garlic are used in almost every Peruvian dish. We use a lot of potatoes – all kinds – and we also use mushrooms, peppers, bean sprouts, beets, arugula, bok choy, kale and yucca. At the restaurant, we make delicious yucca croquettes, a Peruvian corn cake and a quinoa salad which falls in the vegetarian dish category. The Latino food we prepare at Tanta really uses vegetables that are common to many cultures.
S: What are some Latino flavors that you see being used as breakfast in the U.S.?
CD: In Peru we eat cebiche for breakfast. The citrus base in cebiche would translate perfectly and I am sure that once it was tried, it could become a favorite. It’s just the idea of it that might put off some people but eating fish for breakfast isn’t that unusual with Japanese and Peruvian people and other cultures as well. There is good reason to start the day with a breakfast that includes fish. It’s a great source of protein and its fatty acids are another plus. Maybe a breakfast with tiradito – similar to cebiche – would be successful since they are a bit lighter.