Major: Culinary Arts
Job Title: Grupo Enrique Olvera
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Enrique Olvera ’99 is an international renowned chef and owner of Grupo Enrique Olvera. His restaurants include the award winning Pujol and three Eno gourmet coffee shops in Mexico City, Maiz de Mar in Playa de Carmen, Moxi at Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende, Manta at The Cape Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, and Cosme in the Flatiron district of New York City—his first restaurant outside of Mexico—which was design by the architect Alonso de Garay. Cosme is named after a market in Mexico City where Olvera’s grandfather took him as a young boy. Taller Enrique Olvera is the research and development hub for Grupo Enrique Olvera, providing training and education, and consulting services.
Cosme earned a nomination for a 2015 James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant Award, was named 2015 Restaurant of the Year by Eater.com, was listed as one of the Best Restaurants of 2015 by Food & Wine, and received a three-star review from The New York Times. Cosme’s chef de cuisine, Daniela Soto-Innes took home the 2016 James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Olvera, Chef Andoni Adruriz, owner of Mugaritz outside San Sebastian, Spain, and Chef Massimo Bottura, owner of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, have partnered on an ambitious new project: a restaurant in Havana, Cuba. The chefs traveled to Cuba in December 2015 to investigate Havana’s infrastructure and sourcing of products. However, the task will not an easy one. “All the things a chef needs to be successful are missing in Cuba,” Olvera says. “Cuba, culinarily, is behind 50 years.”
Olvera was born in Mexico City. He moved to the United States to enroll at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, graduating with an AOS degree in 1997. He went on to earn his CIA bachelor’s degree in 1999. During his studies, Olvera earned various awards, including a gold medal from the New York Société Culinaire Philanthropique and the Jacob Rosenthal Leadership Award from the college.
After graduation, he got his first job at Everest, one of Chicago’s most exclusive restaurants. In 2000, armed with classical training and haute cuisine experience, Olvera returned to Mexico City to open his own restaurant, Pujol, a slurring of pozole, his nickname in school. There, he embarked on an exploration of Mexico’s culinary riches—reinterpreting and re-articulating its flavors, styles, and techniques from the perspective of contemporary cooking. Food critics in Mexico and around the world have celebrated his ideas and efforts. “Pujol is how I picture Mexico City, and how I want people to experience Mexico,” Olvera explains. “It’s not nostalgic, it’s a little bit loud, a little bit of a mess, and very Mexican.” He is respected by fellow chefs world wide for his creations. As Ferran Adria says, “There was Mexican food before Enrique Olvera, and Mexican food after Enrique Olvera.”
Pujol is ranked as number 16 on the 2015 S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurant list and number nine on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Olvera was named the 2015 International Chef of the Year by The Daily Meal and received The Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award for Latin America. He has earned a well-deserved accolade from his fellow elite professionals across the region—the Chefs’ Choice Award, voted for by the chefs of the S.Pellegrino Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Pujol now proudly serves as an approved externship site for current CIA students so Olvera can pass on lessons he learned to future graduates of the college.
Olvera has published three books: La Nueva Cocina Mexicana in 2000; Diez Años Pujol, a volume that recounts the history and philosophy behind his first ten years of the restaurant, released in 2010; and En la Milpa, released in 2011. His first English-language cookbook, entitled Mexico From the Inside Out with photography by Araceli Paz, which traces the life of Pujol, was published by Phaidon on October 19, 2015.
In May 2014, Olvera celebrated the 14th anniversary of Pujol with the release of a brand new print publication, Boomerang. A cross between a book and a magazine, Boomerang is a gastronomic notebook that serves as a companion to Pujol’s guest-chef dinner series of the same name. Olvera’s world travels inspired him to launch his Boomerang dinner series. After meeting and exchanging ideas with so many great chefs abroad, Olvera wants Pujol’s staff and customers to learn from these chefs as well. “With the notebook, what we wanted to do was to document those experiences,” he says. “We were also looking for something that is a little bit more fun than a book.”
In 2012, Olvera, along with the Colectivo Mexicano de Cocina A.C., launched Mesamérica, a three-day conference that aims to promote Mexican gastronomy outside of Mexico and bring the country into the global culinary conversations taking place today. “With Mesamérica, efforts, funds, and contacts could be combined under one roof and strengthen Mexico’s hospitality industry,” Olvera explains. Well-known foreign and domestic chefs, along with a slew of experts in the history, anthropology, and sociology of Mexican cuisine, have participated in previous editions of the conference. Mesamérica offers a number of students lower-cost admission to the conference thereby exposing them to some of the world’s top chefs and expand their understanding of all cuisines.
Olvera will be featured in the second season of Chef’s Table, the critically acclaimed show created by filmmaker David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) shown exclusively on Netflix. A frequent conference guest and lecturer, Olvera has appeared at the MAD symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark, Gastronomika in San Sebastian, Spain, and has contributed to several Latin Flavors, American Kitchen conferences at The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio. On April 20, 2016, at the 18th annual World of Flavor conference, Olvera was the opening keynote speaker presenting The Voice of the Chef: Developing a Personal Philosophy Through Heritage and Training.
Cosme has proven so successful that Olvera is now planning a more casual Mexican restaurant with about 65 seats on the ground floor of the new six-story Morris Adimi-designed building at 372 Lafayette Street. “We are looking forward to further deepen our roots in New York City and create a space where people can gather around, grab a delicious bite, and enjoy a nice cold michelada,” says Olvera. “We intend to open the restaurant by this year’s end.”