Top Chef - Season 11
Celebrity Chefs

Carlos Gaytán went from being a dishwasher to become the first Mexican chef to win a Michelin Star

Gaytán got the distinction back to back in 2013 and 2014

Carlos Gaytán is the chef-owner of Tzuco, and according to him, one of his “biggest achievements” is when he became the first Mexican chef to win Michelin Star. Gaytán worked from the bottom to the top, starting his journey as a dishwasher in fine dining restaurants.

In 2008 he opened Mexique, a Mexican restaurant in Chicago where he experienced for the first time the joy of receiving the award for “high-quality cooking, worth a stop.” Gaytán got the distinction back to back in 2013 and 2014.

“Mexique began in my home. [It started with] the dishes I made when I felt nostalgic when I missed the food of my country,” he told Vice in 2017. “I cook with the memories of my childhood, but I try to bring them into modernity. For example, I think of the green pozole that my mother made and [ask myself] how I can transform it. I take advantage of my French schooling and everything I‘ve learned over the years. The result: A corn croquette, served with pork belly and salsa instead of broth.”

“It’s been very difficult to educate consumers. Americans don’t think of Mexican food as fine dining. In my restaurant, we got rid of beans, guacamole, and margaritas. Once you break with expectations, you can begin to suggest new experiences to the diner,” he added.

In Tzuco, the chef continues showcasing Mexican dishes and following recipes from his childhood. “I grew up with my parents. My father used to take me hunting for meat, and it was really amazing because you appreciate everything. You appreciate the animal that is being sacrificed for you to enjoy it,” he told Reuters.

“My mom, she was really amazing picking up ingredients in the fields, and I used to go with her and pick all those ingredients. Just to see my mom cooking with everything and being very, very creative,” he added.

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Gaytán believes in the potential of other Mexican chefs, and although he is the first, he doesn’t want to be the last. “It makes it so special because many kids are watching what you do. The thing is that I don’t want you kids to be like me; I want you to be better than me. I can teach you the way that I get here, and I know you want to do that, but why stop right here? The thing is that you have to dream big, bigger than this. If I got one, why not dream you have two or three? That’s the point,” he concluded.