Kitchen Secrets with Chef Jaime

September 16, 2022

He is a professional executive Chef and Restaurant Operator with over 15 years proficient experience in all facets of operations from managing dining rooms, kitchens, teams, menus, budgets, and revenue at a multi unit level. He enjoys developing new dishes and evolving menus, finding creative solutions to problems, and identifying opportunities during challenges. 

He is also a leader and teacher and has a passion for training and encouraging young aspiring chefs and building successful kitchen teams achieving this way an exceptional success in staff retention, growth, and development.

Find out who he is and what sets his unique spin on Mexican food apart. We hope you enjoy his answers as much as we did!

Buena Vida Gastolounge Arlington’s Top Chef
Buena Vida Gastolounge Arlington’s Top Chef

Tell us about you and your background.

I am Mexican born and raised. I grew up in Coyocan County a folkloric town known for its beautiful colonial houses, art institutes, museums, and the Artistic scenery at the central plaza on weekends. This town is in the center south of Mexico City. At an early age, I was immersed in arts in general, painting, drawing, music lessons and of course I start sinking into my Grandmas kitchen at the age of 5. I kept on watching grandma Laura cooking over the years and asking her about her recipes and techniques.

I studied aboard on 3 different continents in business, marketing, photography, and of course, everything about culinary from savory to pastry and to modernist cuisine. Until I landed in the States about 11 years ago.

Why did you want to become a chef?

My father loves eating and learning about different cultures. Some of the brightest childhood memories are waiting for Sundays to have my father taking us to a new and weird restaurant every time. To make us eat from escargots à la bourguignonne to gusanos de maguey or raw fish called sashimi since my siblings and I were so little.

I think that the joy from watching my grandma cooking and all the different restaurants and service stiles made me have the idea to start playing at my mother’s kitchen to be a cook and designee a plate or menu for my siblings to eat. I would charge them toys for them to eat some of my best creations!

What makes Buena Vida’s menu outstanding?

The drive of presenting real Mexican cuisine and the flavors that I crave and cannot find anywhere around.

Check out our full menu here

Chef Jaime preparing a mexican dish
Chef Jaime preparing a mexican dis

What are your favorite drink and food combinations on the menu?

Every single menu item was conceived under one question. What is my must-go-to food, when I am in México? And starting from that question there are days that I prefer to eat light with a salad, some street food, or some other times a fresh hand-made tortilla with a sprinkled of salt can make my day. And when I can sit down at a table; a pint of Buena Vida Lager, a Casa Magoni Origen 43 glass of wine, and “El Jefe” cocktail creation from our great mixologist Felix.

What intrigued you most about Mexican cooking?

Smells, seasonality adding the mysticism of my grandmother's kitchen.

What are the most underrated food combinations with Mexican Cuisine?

Well, it turns out that almost everything people thought they knew about Mexican food is wrong.

There are many distinct Mexican cuisines divided into 7 very different regions and the most underrated among this culinary culture can be all the great food items you can make out of just vegetables into outstanding whole meals and dishes.

How do you react when a customer sends their meal back and what will you do to improve the dish?

I don’t react, only take action. So my work is to find out what is what these guests like eating and what they were expecting from our menu. 

Turns out most of the time we did not explain properly our culinary proposal and our guests were coming into Buena Vida expecting to find food “Mexican food” they can relate to. Like queso sauce or fajitas or any other cheese mexi-american food.

So we keep on working to improve the training we provide our staff with and how we can guide and explain who we are as an authentic Mexican restaurant.

Head Chef at Buena Vida
Head Chef at Buena Vida

What is your primary motivation?

First of all, eat well and honest. Well for the planet and honest to the guest. Then show México on a plate.

What is your most valuable culinary tip?

Be amazed by your ingredients and respect them.

What chefs have inspired you and why?

You know what? After some years of carrier and cooking from some of the best in what they do, I learned that staying true to yourself can disappear. Many just look for a show. Answering to your question; My grandmother of course, Yuri de Gortari and Juan Mari Arzak. These are human beans I had the opportunity to be mentored by and admire. I also admire any cook or Chef that strives to really be humbled and authentic in what they do.

Chef Jaime talking to customers
Chef Jaime talking to customers

If you could explain Buena Vida's menu in one word, what would it be?

Electric.

Treat yourself to his electrifying Mexican cuisine, which features an array of unlimited dishes and a fantastic drinks selection. Reserve your table today.

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