The hottest table in New York City belongs to Mexican-born chef Cesar Ramirez, formerly the Executive Chef of famed restaurant Bouley. Ramirez, 40, was recently awarded two Michelin Stars for his 18-seat chef’s table at Brooklyn Fare—as if it wasn’t already tough to get a reservation! Getting awarded any stars in the Michelin Guide is a huge deal. It’s the oldest and most respected guide to fine dining in the world. With a tough rating system of one to three stars, many chefs strive their entire careers to be awarded just one. But after experiencing the culinary bliss that Chef Ramirez offers, we were convinced that this talented Latino deserves a whole constellation. Here’s what Ramirez had to say to Latina.com:
We read that you didn’t go to cooking school, you just showed up at a restaurant and asked for a job, right?
Right, I grew up in Chicago and one day just walked into a restaurant and asked. I knew I wanted to cook since I was a child hanging out in the kitchen with my mom and helping her cook. Food is very important to our family.
I know that there are a lot of French and Japanese influences in your cooking. Are there any Latino influences?
I ate Mexican food everyday of my life growing up, so I didn’t feel the need to cook that same cuisine throughout my career as well. But, I do cook like my mother and my grandmother in the sense that I use onions and garlic in everything.
Do you still eat Mexican food?
Of course, when I go home. There are many Mexican dishes I like, but my favorite is varvacoa, which is goat seasoned and wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground for 24 hours.
How did Brooklyn Fare come about?
Prior to this I was at a restaurant in the West Village and after 6 months I left because cooking what I cook cost a lot of money and time, and people at the restaurant wanted to compromise a lot. I really didn’t want to compromise and I finally found a partner that understood my vision. We never compromise. Plus, Manhattan is just so expensive; it’s not worth it. I like that we’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s a destination that people come to from Long Island, NY to Greenwich, Conn.
Being uncompromising seems to have worked. You’ve won 2 Michelin stars! How does it feel?
To be honest, I never thought Michelin would give us two stars right off the bat. I wasn’t striving for that. I never cared about publicity, I only care about putting the best work I could possibly put out. We don’t even do any PR. It’s all word of mouth. I’m very proud as a Latino, especially as a Mexican, to be awarded because I remember growing up in Chicago and getting my first job and a French chef said to me, “Cesar, you have to work harder and try to be smarter than a European or an American because your Mexican. If you stick to that you’re going to succeed.” I’ve been doing this for 21 years and have worked very hard all my life—nothing came for free. I was lucky enough to have renowned chefs like David Bouley notice, and that’s how I actually ended up coming to NYC to work.
I’m building a restaurant next door to Brooklyn Fare and we’re hoping to open within a few months. My style of cooking is very simple, clean, and crisp and that’s the type of dishes I want offered. It’s food that’s affordable where you can go eat everyday.