Beyond Being a Chef
Chilango Chef Edgar Nuñez wakes up at 7am, spends an hour with his children and then squeezes in a CrossFit workout. By 10am, he begins his chef routine: a lot of office work, overseeing products, production, and food service as he traverses Mexico City, checking in on his many projects.
Sud777 is his leading restaurant but he owns two others and three food trucks: Comedor Jacinta, Kokeshi, Barra Vieja, Burger Lab and Rosticé, respectively. He also looks after the garden that provides the produce for all the restaurants and for Lo Dirás de Chia, his new organic market in Mercado Roma.
Like other global chefs, Edgar is proving that managing many businesses does not need to detract from the quality he delivers or his creativity. Doing it the right way may actually improve both of them. This year, Sud777 entered the top hundred list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and beyond the recognition, he has managed to create a sustainable business that respects heritage, produce and producers. It seems, he is up to the challenge of being a modern day chef. — Claudia Sofia Von
For me, being a chef goes beyond cooking. You need to be honest, learn to avoid envy, learn to share your time and what you learn, both at home and when you travel. You need to remain patient but with an observing spirit. On the poetic side, you need to embody love, because cooking is a way to give love.
On the practical side, being a chef also makes you a businessman. Your decisions, good or bad, will affect the future of many people, and to achieve success, one needs to learn the entire restaurant business cycle. From the processes and the people involved in the sow and harvest, to the work at their farms, to the way the animals are being taken care of, to how the produce is transported — each and all of these factors may affect your producer’s performance. And, subsequently, your own team’s performance.
We need to think: how do we get a perfect plate to the table? We keep a strong, knowledgeable network of reliable producers, and keep educating their communities to value both their products, their heritage, our heritage, and our produce.
As chefs, we also need to understand management, from costs and accounting to human resources, mixed with a bit of psychology because we care about our staff and know that the health of our restaurants depend on their wellness. I need a good team to bring that plate to your table.
How do we make that plate efficient and affordable? Well, given that we have so many restaurants, we end up diversifying because that is the best way to utilize the produce between them. We even created Lo Dirás de Chia, the market, because we were growing so many vegetables in our garden. But the logic is that I can buy a high quality product because of the volume that I use across restaurants. And because of this, I can sell a tuna toast for less than 3USD in the food truck. It would be impossible otherwise. It’s an efficient system.
For us, Mexicans, this is a growing mind-set within the country. Food was always a serious matter for us. We can easily eat different dishes for ten years without repeating one, because that’s how diverse our country is. We have fruits, spices, veggies that only grow here, and we are aware that we need to preserve them, recipe by recipe. This is also what being a cook is about.
We have a duty to educate. On our heritage but also on our standards and demands, both for consumers and producers. What is a good product? What is a good service? We need to teach how to see the difference between a good and a bad tortilla. And what is a good job? Because this only works if we build a good society where the new cooks can also get on all these tasks, preserving our gastronomy in their best conditions.
As a cook, I believe that it was the work of the chefs who came before us, this bright generation, that allowed us to understand what a real cook needs to be. But as a Latino, I believe that we have traditions and a heritage that makes us different, and in need of this organic approach.
It’s now our duty to ensure that the next generation is also made of cooks that go beyond cooking.
— As told to Claudia Sofia Von