In the second half of The Final Table’s first episode, chef Enrique Olvera administers a challenge for the bottom three chef-teams focusing on cactus and prickly pears, two ingredients that are found throughout his native Mexico. Here’s everything you need to know about this influential chef.
Who is Enrique Olvera?
Enrique Olvera is the chef/owner of 15 internationally renowned restaurants including Pujol and Molino el Pujol in Mexico City, Manta in Los Cabos, and Cosme and Atla in New York City. Through his work at Pujol and elsewhere, Olvera has been influential in helping elevate the status of Mexican cuisine on the world stage. Both Pujol and Cosme rank within the top 25 of the World’s 50 Best. In 2015, he published his first English language cookbook, Mexico from Inside Out. Olvera was also featured in season 2 of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, and the chef is currently in the process of opening a restaurant in Los Angeles, which could (maybe) be his last.
What was his journey through the culinary world like?
Olvera was born in Mexico City to a lower-middle class family, and discovered his passion for cooking in high school. He eventually found his way to New York City to attend the Culinary Institute of America and graduated with two degrees in 1999. Olvera first went to Chicago to work at Everest. In 2000, the young chef returned to his hometown of Mexico City, where he opened Pujol. The restaurant, whose name is a reference to a childhood nickname, started out serving food presented through more of a European lens, however, Olvera eventually decided to make radical changes by incorporating and reinterpreting more regional Mexican cuisine on the menu. The restaurant earned numerous accolades including a spot on the World’s 50 Best list. In 2017, Olvera moved Pujol to a new location, also in Mexico City.
What is Enrique Olvera’s food like?
Olvera is known for serving fine-dining interpretations of regional Mexican dishes and ingredients, including smoked baby corn served on a stick with coffee and ant powder. He’s perhaps best known for Mole Madre, Mole Nuevo — a spoonful of fresh mole surrounded by a “mother” mole that’s been aged for 1,000 days. It’s eaten with tortillas. At Pujol, he also offers a daily Taco Omakase menu with handmade tortillas and filled with anything from cauliflower with almond sauce to barbacoa and squash blossoms. “Food is a way of communicating,” Olvera told Vogue in 2015. “I think a lot of modern chefs think that cooking is more an art form and about ideas. I don’t.”