Signature Dish: Solera's chef Jorge Guzman
Solera Chef Jorge Guzman presents his Lomo de Cerdo, a historical representation of ropa vieja
Photo by http://hilaryrobertsphoto.com/
Guzman grew up the product of a single-parent household and took to cooking to help out because of his mother's hectic work schedule. Guzman has deep culinary attachments to his family's region of Mexico, and he has deep admiration for both his aunt's and his grandmother's cooking. These things helped give him the inspiration to reinvent the way his family was eating. "Thomas Keller and Jesus Christ could cook for me and I'd still think that my grandmother's cooking would be better than theirs," boasts Guzman.
It was toward the end of his high school career that he had his first venture into the world of cooking, based on the recommendation of a friend's father. Guzman explains, "One of my friends' dads was a purveyor, and he was like, 'if you really want to be a chef, why don't you go work with one of my buddies and see what it's like.' So I went and worked for a really traditionally French restaurant. I would prep in the morning; I would bus or expedite in the evenings. Expediting is not easy to do, but for some reason I really caught on quickly."
He then left for college and took some time away from the kitchen. Guzman attended Drake University in Iowa, where he received a four-year degree in journalism. Toward the end of his time in college, he started back in the kitchen, but the experience was less than fulfilling. A friend of his helped him get a job, and "we were slinging burgers, pastas and salads," Guzman explains, "I can still recite the menu and recite the pickups in my head: chicken finger salads, turkey mango-tango salads. It was like Applebee's on steroids."
After his time at Drake, Guzman moved on to the Culinary Institute of America in New York. While there he took tutelage from veteran chef Anita Eisenhauer, a distinguished New York chef who would serve as both a mentor and a source of inspiration for Guzman. They still keep in touch.
After CIA, Guzman moved home and started a short-lived stage with well-known Twin Cities chef Vincent Francoual. Unfortunately the pay scale at the time wasn't enough to support his two student loans, so Guzman went to work for Redstone, where he learned a good deal about operations management. He took some time off and moved to Colorado for a brief period before moving on to Chicago, where he ran a small bistro and wine bar. After about a year, he moved back to Minneapolis and became the head chef of the now closed Tejas, then moved on to a stint at the Minneapolis farm-to-table pioneer Corner Table. After that, he bounced around a few other Twin Cities hot spots before finding himself at his current home, Solera.
Chef Guzman spends a tremendous amount of time immersed in researching not only ingredients but history. The dish he prepared for us reflects that in a way that is simply profound. Guzman traces the dish's past from its origins on Spain's Canary Islands to several islands in the Caribbean, most notably Cuba. The dish evolved while making its way along trade routes, and Guzman incorporates elements from all aspects of the dish's roots into one flavorful combination.
The dish, as it's found on Solera's menu, is called Lomo de Cerdo, but another, perhaps more common name for the dish is ropa vieja, comprised of slow-braised beef or pork in a tomato sauce, often served with plantains and black beans. Guzman's version of the dish largely returns it to its Spanish origins and utilizes a perfectly grilled hunk of pork loin in lieu of the braised meats. Instead of plantains and black beans, Guzman plates the dish using a chickpea puree, which holds truer to the Spanish origins of the dish, and then tops it with a piperade sauce. The piperade is Basque in origin and contains peppers, onions, and garlic that all get rendered down into an extremely flavorful sauce. The pork tenderloin reflects a little bit more of the dish's Latin American background and is marinated with chayote, garlic, and pimenton, giving the pork a reddish hue and tangy flavor. The dish is finished with a few leaves of fried cilantro, and the end result is elegantly simple and immensely flavorful.
Photo by http://hilaryrobertsphoto.com/
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