Chef Spotlight: Chef Jose Luis Flores, Co-owner of DE MOLE in Brooklyn
For nearly 20 years, Jose Luis Flores has been treating fans of Latin and Nuevo Latino and Mexican cuisine to enticing flavors and sweet delights. In 2010, Flores joined Richard Sandoval Restaurants to serve as the Regional Executive chef at Zengo and Maya New York. His role was expanded to oversee the kitchen at Toro Toro, Chef Richard Sandoval's acclaimed Pan-Latin steakhouse in Miami and Tamayo in Denver Colorado.
Born in 1973 in a small town outside of Mexico City, Flores's first kitchen memories are of his grandmother, whipping egg whites by hand to make a perfect génoise cake. She was a cook for wealthy families and would often bring home ingredients that were exotic to the Mexican pantry, piquing Flores's culinary curiosity. After losing his father at the age of eight, he took over cooking for his family under the tutelage of his mother. When he turned 16, Flores decided to make cooking his career and found a job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant named La Luna.
Desiring more for his professional life and his family, Flores relocated his family to New York City and began working at the famed China Grill restaurant in Manhattan. Through intense dedication and commitment over the next two years, he studied and perfected his English and, following his childhood interest in baking, ultimately became the head pastry chef.
In 1997, during a research dinner with industry colleagues at the popular Latin restaurant Patria, Flores was introduced to chef Douglas Rodriguez and the contagious energy of Nuevo Latino fare, a fusion of Caribbean and Central and South American cuisine. Over the next 12 years, he partnered with his friend and mentor, Chef Rodriguez, taking on the responsibility of corporate executive chef & pastry chef at these award-winning restaurants: Patria in New York, Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia, Deseo in Scottsdale, Ola Miami and D Rodriguez Cuba in Miami.
In 2004, StarChefs.com named Flores a Miami Rising Star Pastry Chef. He published his first book Dulce: Desserts in the Latin-American Tradition in May 2010
Prior to joining Richard Sandoval Restaurants, Flores worked for Emilio and Gloria Estefan under the restaurant group cb5. Together they opened Bongos Cuban Café at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. Here Flores was able to showcase his latest innovative interpretation of Cuban cuisine.
Flores is the author of Dulce: Desserts in the Latin American Tradition, a cookbook that gives readers a peak into the unchartered dessert world of Latin-American cuisine. Dulce is one of the first cookbooks to be devoted to Latin-America sweets. Additionally, he has trained at the Edwal Notter Confectionary School, as well as Canainpa, the National Industry of Bread in Mexico City. Flores is also annually tapped to participate in Food Network's South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Jose Flores for our "Chef Spotlight."
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
As a child I began cooking as a necessity. However, when I was fifteen, I started working as a busboy in a Spanish restaurant named Casa Pedro. There were probably around fifteen cooks and around half were women. It was then that I truly became interested in cooking. When I saw the harmony in how they served the food, the way they cooked paella, and the love they had in putting food onto a plate it reminded me of the synchronization of an orchestra and that's what attracted my attention. In the following months I managed to get a job as a dishwasher and I eventually moved on to become a prep cook then a line cook.
Who were some of your career mentors?
My first mentor is my grandmother and my second mentor is my mother. In my professional career Douglas Rodriguez, Jose Garces, Albert Adria, Edward Notter and many others.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
In the majority of my career I specialized in Nuevo Latino cuisine and explored each and every country in Latin America. I was influenced by French pastries and tried to find ways to apply it to our Latin pastries. I really enjoy when people come and order tasting menus because it is a way to enjoy the arrangement of a course from the appetizer to the dessert. It is a way to explore the creativity of the chef and how they choose to present the food.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
What distinguishes my plates from others is not only the ingredients but the story behind them as well. For example, in De Mole restaurant we cook authentic Mexican food and use plates I have learned from my grandma and mother. In our trips to Mexico we have learned and shared with the native people from Mexico who use recipes passed down from generations such as the barbacoa, cochinita pibil and mole poblano. Some of them have pre-Hispanic cooking techniques which I try to reflect onto my own cooking. It's a marriage between pre-Hispanic and modern cuisine. Mexico is such a vast country that their food varies from region to region that it is difficult to apply it into only one menu. This is why our food changes with the season.
What is your favorite meal?
I really enjoy avocado tacos for a quick snack. Enchiladas verdes, arepas with cheese and chorizo, ceviche, and empanadas are also a few of my favorites. It is such a difficult question and Latin America has so much food that I would need a whole page to tell you what my favorite foods are.
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Expect the unexpected when it comes to our daily specials. With a background of 25 years of cooking experience combined with our executed chefs 12 years we often put out Mexican food with bold flavors. As we speak, we are talking about today's special, our strawberry-mango and red snapper ceviche marinated in a lime juice, fish fumme along with strawberry puree. And please don't forget the desserts, our traditional tres leches, classic churros and creamy coconut flan. All these pastries can be found in my book Dulce: Desserts in the Latin-American Tradition. Coming soon we will be showcasing my ice-cream techniques by adding our own style and bringing traditional Mexican flavors.
de Mole is located at 2 Hope St, Brooklyn, NY 11211. They are open from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm every day. Catering is also available. Call them at 347.721.3399 or visit https://demolehopest.com/. You can also e-mail the restaurant at email@example.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of de Mole in Brooklyn