THE MAGNIFICENT “PANCHITA“ – AN INTERVIEW WITH MARTHA PALACIOS
Martha Palacios is the heart and soul of Panchita and with 15 years in the industry she has managed to build a small empire. Among other things, she is responsible for all Panchita restaurants in Lima and Santiago de Chile as well as personally running several kitchens in parallel. In addition to administration she is also executive chef and responsible for purchasing and inventory. A brand ambassador such as her, known also for her collaboration with chef Gastón Acurio, wears many different hats.
In this interview we want to find out what makes a fantastic kitchen team, what makes quality food and how you build a great reputation for a restaurant. What the challenges are and how you bring out the best in your team.
Are there different branches within your kitchen?
There are no separate areas here and even though I finally wear the big toque everybody does everything. We’re very multifunctional. If I were to go over our institutional organisations plan, it would encompass everything from washing machines to assistant cooks, from sous-chefs to the executive sous-chef and executive chef. And when someone has several restaurants under them as in my case, you have a function as the brand’s leader.
How many people make up a team?
Every restaurant has 35 chefs, including pastry chefs and staff that are responsible for laundry services. In some other restaurants we have around 30. There is a lot of work involved as we have over 100 items on the menu, and almost all of it made fresh daily.
How would you describe the function of a brand’s leader?
My job is to organize, supervise and manage specific things in the restaurants and kitchens. When problems arise, I go to where a solution is needed and find the best way to resolve the issue. I take care of everything that goes on behind the scenes of the restaurants: The warehouse, produce, deliveries and aside from that I have other responsibilities such as meetings with servers, the daily preparation of dishes and their creativity.
I’ve read about your history, and in one interview you mentioned you worked in Panchita as an assistant. Could you expand on that for us?
I started off in La Mar focusing on the skins of different meats. Then my career progressed from cooking for the staff to the grill, from the grill to sides, and from sides to the cold kitchen. I learned and learned so much, but what is sad about the story is that they promised me a good salary but couldn’t deliver.
Who ended up paying you?
An entrepreneur whom I am not at liberty to name. I was in La Mar and wanted to work as a head chef in Brazil, stay a year and gather experience.
When I returned and asked about a job they were not open for discussion and that was understandable. In the end I didn’t go back to La Mar but found a job as a kitchen assistant at Panchita. I worked 5 months there when they asked if I would like to be the head chef. I was overjoyed.
What is the characteristic that defines a chef?
Leadership is very important, you work day after day together with your team. It’s one thing to talk about doing things and a totally different thing to actually put things into action. When we’re all busy working it’s not easy to just chat. If someone hires a kitchen helper or comparable position, you need to tell them they will be doing these step-by-step for about 5 months just to absorb everything. I had a young lady tell me once that she imagined the job would be easy, and she was pretty surprised how strenuous it was in the end.
It’s not all about knowing how to cook as pleasing peoples palates, When you’re dealing with food hygiene it involves a lot of cleaning, rejecting or sending back product, labeling, and the shelf-life of foods and products such as supplies and waste.
It seems a bit like your team are sort of like your own children.
I don’t have just one child, I’m around 50 years-old. Oh my God!
Which challenges have you had to overcome?
Well, for example, here in the first couple of months we had the water flowing, we had a day where all the drains were blocked. We had no idea what to do. We almost laid ourselves over the floor drains to stop the water coming up. I desperately searched for a solution to the problem facing us, while the team took care of the orders coming in. Let me say that on that day, there were no breaks.
What are the general traits you look for in a candidate for your teams so they fit in just right?
My focus isn’t so much on attitudes or personality traits, but more on the human resources side, but if I interview someone the C.V. (resume) is very important to me. Someone could have worked in a thousand restaurants, but the eagerness to learn is much more important to me.
And how do you spurr your team on?
“Come on guys, the hard part is behind us. We just need a successful end.” And then I give them 5 more orders. 🙂
Thanks so much Martha for giving us some insight into your day with your team.
Here we present the dish “Old-fashioned heart”
We got lucky and Martha has provided us with Panchitas most popular Creole dish: Barbecued Heart.
- 2 kg Beef hearts
- 1 Cup red pepper paste
- 1/8 cup garlic paste
- 1 tsp pepper
- 5 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp Oregano
- 1/2 Cup Redwine vineagar
- 2 Cups oill
- Salt to taste
- Mix the red pepper and garlic.
- Put in a large mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients.
- Next add the vinegar..
- Mix well.
- Add the oil until it becomes a smooth mix.
- Clean the hearts from fat and nerve tissue and cut into pieces.
- The size of the pieces depends on a persons taste, but we recommend around 30 grams per piece.
- Marinate the pieces in the prepared mix ideally overnight but at least for 5 hours.
- Sear for 2 minutes each side.
- Slow cook for 45 minutes.
- Served best with boiled potatoes, steamed corn and Rocoto(Hot pepper)-paste or Rocoto mit Huacatay(black mint sauce).
Interested in being part of Martha Palacios team in Panchita? Find out everything you need to know here.
The Panchita belongs to Gruppe Acurio Restaurants which also holds the following interesting restaurants worldwide:
Astrid&Gaston, TAntA. Lamar, El Bodegon, CHICHA, PAPACHOS; YAKUMANKA, MANKO and BARRA CHALACA. You can find these restaurants in Arequipa, Barcelona, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Mexico, Cusco, Doha, Lima, Miami, Paris, San Francisco, Santiago de Chile…
A step into Panchita or any restaurant from Gruppe Acurio Restaurants can get your international career soaring.
The Panchita belongs to Peruvian kitchen chef Gastón Acurio’s Gruppe Acurio Restaurants. It is authentic Creole cuisine from Lima, traditional dishes from yesteryear and stews that are made still in the countryside. Large portions perfect for sharing cooked in a wood-fired oven which also produces: Various traditional breads, cornbread, filled Rocoto chili and juicy beef, suckilng pig or duck. Modern atmosphere with a great prices. You can find more at: http://panchita.pe/en