Cantina La Veinte's Executive Chef, Santiago Gomez (32) is a talented young toque who offers a playful, yet sophisticated approach to traditional Mexican cuisine. This time outside Mexico he has been promoting his culture and gastronomic heritage, His dishes reflect his passion for taking the rich offerings of Mexico's agriculture and transforming them into contemporary masterpieces.
Born in Mexico City, Gomez's interest for cooking was sparked while he worked as a deliveryman for a local seafood distributor and often observed chefs at work. Their focus and passion inspired him to go to culinary school and in 2007 he graduated from the city's top culinary academy Centro Culinario Ambrosia. Gomez confesses he has always had an affinity for higher education and following graduation, continued his studies in Barcelona, Spain at the renowned culinary and hospitality school, Hofmann.
Gomez graduated in 2008 and was seeking what was next. A friend encouraged him to join him and see what Miami had to offer; and an opportunity to work for the fast-expanding NOBU brand seemed opportunity enough. Although he spent just one year in South Florida working for NOBU, before returning to home to open NOBU Mexico City, he recounts "Miami life" memories of serving Lenny Kravitz and partaking in extravagant Dom Perignon truffle dinners.
Upon his return to Mexico City, Gomez danced his way into the palate of NOBU "restaurant regular" Alberto Cinta - who more importantly was the, ceo and co-founder of Mexico's largest hospitality company, Cinbersol Group S. A. Cinta hired Gomez as Sous Chef for a Thai/Japanese concept they had plans to open called Erawan. "The lineup was a 'dream team' of chefs," says Gomez, which included a former chef of Miami's China Grill, an experienced sushi chef from Los Angeles, a chef from Thailand and the pastry chef of NOBU.
Those two years at Erawan scripted the next volume in Gomez's culinary novel. Gomez worked on multiple concepts for the Cinbersol Group in multiple capacities, including Sud777, a fine dining restaurant in Mexico City that was recognized by San Pellegrino as Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants.
Gomez was eventually promoted to Corporate Chef where he would open Cantina La Numero 20, which today is one of the Group's first internationally expanded concepts. When it's initial Mexico City concept opened, it was so popular that after just 18 months it started a multi-city expansion eventually opening three additional concepts in Polanco, El Angel and Santa Fe.
Before opening Cantina La Veinte in Miami in July 2014, Gomez took a one month, preparatory stage at Daniel by renowned chef Daniel Boulud. He set out to "refresh" his kitchen techniques, but notes that what he found most valuable was learning the precision and technique behind the actual operation of a Michelin-starred kitchen. When arriving to Miami in early 2014, Gomez was naturally filled with culinary creativity, but used his experience at Daniel to aid in the actual kitchen design, which he believes is a huge help in the restaurant ability to executing timely service to their very frequently packed-house of diners.
In just a few months, Cantina La Veinte has garnered national acclaim; the restaurant's most recent feature in Travel + Leisure had writer Anya Von Bremzen referring to the space as possibly one of the city's most stunning new restaurants and dubs Gomez as an "Ace young Mexican Chef."
Learn More About Santiago Gomez
What is your earliest memory involving food or wine?
I was able to bring emblematic ingredients from Mexico that no one can find here, so i cooked them and the feeling i got was like going back to my days living at Mexico City and eating traditional street food which i love! Chicatana which is best known as the Red Ant, it is used to make salsa, delicious! Chapulines are like grasshoppers and they also come from Oaxaca, we cook them fried and eat them with guacamole and tortilla.
If you've participated in the Festival before, what is your favorite SOBEWFF memory to date?
In the las SOBEWFF 2014 when i met Juan Mari Arzak... i will never forget that!
If you could cook with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Chef Jean Georges
I never leave home without my:
Clean Chef Coat