The New York dough chef. Omar Anani, Saffron De Twah, Detroit. The dishes at El Alto combine the wide variety of techniques that Traci Des Jardins and Robert Hurtado learned in haute cuisine restaurants with their personal memories of Mexican food. And the understanding of what Mexican food was, even at that time, focused more on burritos, and burritos that aren't even found in Mexico.
If I could turn back the clock and retrace my entire 38-year career, I think I would have focused on Mexican food from the start and would have gone into Mexico to experience (the cuisine) first-hand, because it's really very specific to each region. Where there is a lot of California cuisine, but at the same time, we use Mexican ingredients and turn the page on what Mexican food is. Inspired by the rise in popularity of regional Mexican cuisine and by the work of writer Diana Kennedy, who spent decades writing Mexican cookbooks based on research on home cooking, Des Jardins wants to be part of this movement that shows the depth and variety of Mexican cuisine. I spoke with Des Jardins and Hurtado to learn about El Alto's modern Mexican menu, which includes dishes such as King City's pink beans refried in duck fat and the apricot mole inspired by the orchards of Los Altos.
Other career highlights include Aubergine Tantris in Munich (Germany), as well as Palio and San Domenico in New York. The James Beard Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to celebrate, support and uplift the people behind the food culture of the United States and to defend a standard of good food based on talent, equity and sustainability. Despite his initial success, Des Jardins, whose maternal grandparents were from Mexico, said that if he could start his career all over again, he would have focused on Mexican food from the start. I work in all these places, I learn all these different techniques, but I still miss cooking Mexican food and what I'm used to.
He has been very supportive of everyone at Cosme, and really paved the way for delicious Mexican food in the United States. There's definitely a place for that, but I want people to be able to explore Mexican cuisine from a different perspective; Mexican food has much more to do with it. This week, Des Jardin opened its new California Mexican restaurant El Alto in the State Street Market dining room in Los Altos. I was a minor league baseball player from Sonora, so the Mexican food I ate growing up actually came from Sonora.