Mexican chef spills beans on new projects
Renowned chef Richard Sandoval, patron chef at Maya restaurant located in Dubai’s Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort and Spa, discusses his native Mexican cuisine and Maya’s new menu.
How did you originally become interested in cooking?
I have always loved cooking and my fascination with the art started when I was a child, playing around in my grandmother’s kitchen. I have very fond memories of playing with the cooks, tasting new foods and generally creating a mess! Since then I’ve improved my culinary skills, but remain just as passionate about food.
What is your favourite Mexican dish to create?
Tacos with a modern twist! Tacos are very simple to make, but offer a wide variety of ingredients to play with.
For example, you can use bone marrow to create the tacos, whilst the stuffing can be made with a wide variety of interesting ingredients, from pork belly to smoked swordfish.
What is the biggest challenge you face in creating truly authentic Mexican cuisine?
As a contemporary chef I love to reinvent authentic Mexican cuisine, which means my biggest challenge is ensuring that the dish always pays respect to its natural heritage.
Tell us about the new menu you’ve introduced at Maya.
The new menu is a lot lighter and healthier, with a greater emphasis on seafood dishes. Being in Dubai, we are right next to the ocean and it is extremely hot, which increases the guest preference for food that is not heavy on the stomach.
There is also a growing consciousness about the need to adopt more healthy eating habits, so the new menu has consequently followed a natural progression in this regard.
We have also changed the meat dishes on the menu to reflect more traditional Mexican cuisine.
What are your plans and ambitions for the next couple of years?
I am opening ten restaurants over the next twelve months, including outlets in the USA, South America and Qatar.
What advice would you give to chefs looking to add a Mexican flavour to their menus?
It is vital for them to understand how to use the ingredients — especially chillies, as these are important to our food and culture.
People have a tendency to think chillies should burn your mouth rather than enhance the flavour of the dish. Depending on what you do with a chilli — roast, grill, use a canned chilli or whatever — you will always get a different guise.