José Tamayo, currently the Executive Chef at Hotel Casa Gangotena member of Relais & Chateaux has 18 years of experience working in high-end hotels and restaurants. He began his career at the Alvear Palace Hotel, in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Chef José Tamayo, manages the restaurant Casa Gangotena recently recognized by the World Culinary Awards as Ecuador´s best hotel Restaurant in 2023 and Best Restaurant of the year by the Ecuadorian national assembly. He has had the opportunity to work with renowned European chefs and learn modern techniques to create new gastronomic experiences based on local ingredients. José´s cuisine is committed to sustainable practices and is always looking forward in terms of innovation and team developing.
Do you have a favorite time of the year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
In Ecuador we are lucky to not have such marked climatic seasons, this allows us to have a great variety of products for longer throughout the year, we have a rainy – winter season in which the most wonderful varieties of mushrooms appear, I love to work with pine mushrooms and pink oyster mushrooms, the pine mushroom has an earthy flavor that is reminiscent of the smell of rain-wet grass and the oyster has such a delicate and elegant flavor that it is perfect for any dish.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
I have always liked architecture and design, I am currently involved in kitchen design and we recently renovated the hotel kitchen and I am very happy with the result, I think that would be my other passion if I were not a chef.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
Yes, personally I believe that as a chef I create dishes that are nourished by my experiences, tastes, memories and give personality to my cuisine. Most of my customers love to talk to me and learn about the cuisine that I create and how my experience influences every aspect of my gastronomic creations.
What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend currently?
I think it may be the vegan diet, we have a large number of guests and clients of the restaurant who are vegan and are looking for a better prepared and varied vegan choices. For this we have created completely vegan dishes that go with the wellness philosophy in our property.
When are you happiest?
I love the creative process in the kitchen, it’s all about team and collaboration, it’s great when everything comes together in a dish after experimenting with products and flavors. Tasting a dish that feels connected with the team is truly one of my happiest moments in the kitchen.
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
Actually, at home, I have two kids a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy and I spend most of my free time with them at the park or cooking with them at home.
Where is your favorite place to dine?
I love to eat at my grandmother’s house, I learned a lot from her, and she always surprises me with something new. I also enjoy traditional Ecuadorian food; a little bit of street food is always great.
What’s your favorite takeaway or comfort food?
I’ll have to say pizza, it’s my absolute favorite, I also enjoy making it at home for my family; when we decide to bake pizzas, it is always almost an event, I do everything, the toppings, the dough, the sauce, I go all in with it.
What makes the local food scene so exciting?
Ecuadorian cuisine is getting a bit more known in the important lists around the world so thee are exciting times that we are going through, there are some new bars and restaurants that are opening and always raising the bar for the rest. I think that now we have a lot of tourists that want to try the new wave of Ecuadorian cuisine and all the chefs that are doing a great job in the restaurant scene.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
I really like this dish because of how it was created, I started working with palm hearts, trying it in different ways and the flavors that came together in the end make this dish very balanced. Citrus and creamy at the same time, soft and crunchy, it is one of my favorites.
You’re having friends over for dinner tonight. What’s on the table?
A good cheese board, cold cuts, a bottle of nice wine, sourdough bread, cocktails and for dinner my friends love my pine mushroom risotto with a nice steak on the grill; my wife is a pastry chef so for desserts, her creations are always a hit.
Name your favorite city that has it all: food, culture, and nightlife.
Buenos Aires, I love that city, I lived there for 5 years so I have great memories of working and eating there. It is a great place to experience nightlife and culture.
Can you tell us more about the cuisine at your restaurants?
At Casa Gangotena Restaurant we serve a ‘Contemporary Mestizo’ Cuisine, it focuses on local ingredients, flavors, techniques combined with influences from other cultures. It is a modern take on Ecuadorian cuisine with a touch of elegance and avant-garde.