Alejandro Mayer – International Executive Chef
My name is Alejandro Mayer, known as Alex to keep things simple! I graduated from The Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale in 1995, which a Bachelors Degree in Culinary Arts. I also won Student of The Year. I was fortunate to study under a Masterchef, Klaus D Friedenreich who inspired me, a great deal. I threw myself in to the Chef life by volunteering to help at a a Lipton tennis tournament and a Superbowl! Catering on a large scale. My early career involved short contracts to take me around the world and gain as much experience as possible. Combining my two passions, food and travel! I have Mexican and German nationality and I was fortunate that my father taught me German, from an early age. Being able to speak fluently in English, Spanish and German has given me some great adventures.
London, California, Switzerland, Australia, Cyprus, Ireland, USA and Mexico is and impressive track record as an International Executive Chef. What attracts you to new stations around the world?
Thank you. I have always loved to challenge myself in every area of my life.I really enjoy discovering new cultures, local foods and cuisines and meeting all kinds of people that I can learn from but also giving back, by sharing my knowledge and experience. I truly am inspired also, by finding new produce and implementing it in my menus.
How do the national cuisines and your own cooking style influence you?
Each country has its own unique styles and flavours, which I like to experiment with, to see how I can adapt them to to blend and enhance my own style. I tend to lean towards modern cuisine and techniques, whilst staying true to the classics.
Fusion Cuisine is the big topic. Often, a lot of inappropriate food is mixed and rarely produces something really good. What is your opinion?
I believe it can be a success but requires many trials before finding the perfect blend. My personal choice is not to try and fuse more than two different styles.
How do you feel about Mexican Cuisine?
Who does not love Mexican Food these days?! I am not talking about Tex mex, I mean REAL Mexican food. It is extremely varied , depending on the region you are in. Its vibrant, packed with flavour and spices and very adaptable. I believe its becoming one of the fastest growing trends right now. Mexican cuisine can be refined for fine dining but honestly, some of the best you will ever taste is sold on street corners in Mexico City!
What has inspired you so far from Mexican Cuisine? What has influenced your work?
I am inspired by Chillies! Be it fresh or dried, you can extract so many flavours and strength of spice from chillies. Wether the dish is mild in spice or rich in spice, the chillie is the king. They make up unique dishes like Mole and you can not beat a perfectly executed Chile Relleno.
What is and will remain, your favorite dish after all these years?
That is a tough question because I love so many!If i have to choose, I would say I really enjoy a very good rack of Lamb or Turbot fillet. Also ANY dessert, created with high quality dark chocolate!
What advice would you give to young chefs, who are also looking for an international career?
NEVER shy away from a challenge, just because you dont speak a language it does not need to be a barrier.
What is your culinary orientation at Club Industrial?
Thats a hard question to answer!. We are a private members club in Monterrey Mexico , that also caters many bespoke events. These could be for 20 people up to 1400 or more. The best I can describe in Mexican cuisine but with a lot of International influences. Being bespoke ,we basically cater for the clients requests. If we can source the ingredients, we can create the menu. We catered a wedding last year that had a Mexican Appetizer, an Iranian Main course and an Indian dessert to reflect the joining of families from different cultures. It makes it more fun and keeps me and the team on top of the game.
What trends or new developments do you see in Mexicos culinary scene?
Mexico has definitely become more environmentally friendly and we are using more sustainable products. Straws made from Avocado seeds, for instance. I would say that the Vegan and Organic market has increased by 60% in the 5 years I have been here. Every restaurant pretty much can cater for vegans and also gluten free needs etc. This was almost non existent before. Mexican vegan food is pretty good!
Finally, in your free time, which Mexican street food do you particularly like?
This is easier to answer! TACOS AL PASTOR everytime.
Do you have a motto?
Make it nice, not twice!
Which of your latest creations would you like to share?
In September I took a culinary tour with my wife to Amsterdam, Scotland and Copenhagen and were very fortunate to eat in some extremely good restaurants including Geranium 3* in Copenhagen. The trends I noticed amongst them were smoking foods. Since returning I have been working on some signature dishes that are sous vide but adding different smoking elements to them. I have been working with different suppliers to see which wood chips work best for enhancing flavour. Monterrey is very BBQ and meat friendly, so our clientele enjoy being “surprised” with different hints of flavours.
What would you do as a Chef, if money was not an issue for a year?
First month would be NOTHING! Sleep in, spend time with my boys and wife. I would like to continue travels , maybe to Asia to discover new cuisines and techniques to add to my Chef repotoire. I would also like to offer free lessons to the poorer young population locally to ignite there passion in a career and off the streets and away from the pull of drugs etc.
You currently work as an Executive Chef and Culinary Director and Club Industrial Private Members Club in Monterrey, Mexico. Which Culinary School did you attend and what brought you to cooking?
I studied at the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and my inspiration was my Mum. She used to take cooking classes and I loved to see what she had created. I actually wanted to study music also . I play the Piano and have written sonatas and concertos. I got accepted in to Julliard School of Music in New York to study to be a Composer and Conductor. However it would take 10 years to complete and at 18 that is a lifetime, so I followed the Culinary path. Music is still a passion and quite often when I am creating menus, I am creating music in my mind that compliments the dishes!
First memories of first year as a Chef?
I almost quit. My first executive sous ran the kitchen, in what is best described as Hitler Style. He was extremely tough and almost broke me but I made it through. I vowed to myself, I would never lead in that style! Sometimes you need to be firm and tough in the kitchen but this can also be done respectfully and productively!
Does a Chef ever learn if it’s a curse or a blessing? What are the most understood aspects about being a Chef?
It’s a bit of both! Whilst you are young and single , the long hours, little free time and lower pay is doable! You strive to reach the next level. If you are lucky enough to find a partner, who is flexible around these hours and you have a family, this is where the curse arises! I have always tried to make it to big events in my children’s lives but there has been birthday parties I could not attend or a school show. That’s the price paid in hospitality.
In the day of reality TV, I think many of the younger generation think that they will instantly become a celebrity chef overnight and don’t realise the complete sacrifice you make, if the pursuit of perfection!
Would I change it? Never, however I might have made some better choices at times! Now I strive for a bit more balance!
Thank you Alejandro!