Since Chef Dudley Nieto began his culinary career in Chicago nearly 40 years ago, he has helped shape the city’s dining scene and paved the way for many Latino chefs who followed him.
As the culinary advisor for the upcoming event Pilsen Gourmet, Nieto is hoping to give diners a taste of Chicago’s food future.
“I think our representation as Latino chefs is so important in this city,” Nieto said. “We have chefs from Guatemala, chefs from Honduras, chefs from Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, of course Mexicans, and so what we needed is to have this recognition of good talent,” Nieto said. “Right now at this moment, everybody’s coming with their ideas. All the Latin American chefs that we have, they have some cool, excellent ideas, I mean you name it!”
Pilsen Gourmet organizer Esmirna Garcia says in its second year, the event’s plate is overflowing with the flavors, colors and culture of Chicago’s diverse Latino cuisine scene.
“It is a gathering of over 25 different chefs, 25 different restaurants, five different mixologists, different culinary brands and representatives of the food industry in Chicago,” Garcia said. “You come in and you are able to sample a dish from each one of these prominent restaurants so you come in and it’s going to be filled with people just trying to feed you a piece of their kitchen and showcase what they’re all about.”
Latino mixologists will be on hand to showcase the expertise they bring to the table. Mixologist Victor Tenorio says his cocktail pairings are carefully considered to complement the flavors of Mexican cuisine.
“It’s like the mole, it’s probably 45 ingredients. We incorporate some fruits and spices and dry peppers into the drink and make it something different,” Tenorio said. “It’s going to pair the food and it’s going to create another experience in your palate.”
Garcia says that as the center of Chicago’s food distribution and restaurant workforce, as well its history as a Latino stronghold, Pilsen is the perfect setting for the event.
“There’s not a tomato that goes through any of the restaurants that doesn’t go through the Pilsen portal of distribution hub. The Latino community has played a huge role in feeding the rest of the Chicagoland area,” she said. “It’s due time to really celebrate what we really look forward to going and doing every week anyway — go to different restaurants where there are Latino chefs are fixing our cuisine. So this is a great place to celebrate that in one night.”
Pilsen Gourmet begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16 at Apollo’s 2000, 2875 W Cermak Road. More information on participating chefs and tickets are available on the event website.