Food is a big part of Mexican culture. It was always the big focus of the weekends--everything was about food. My parents had a cook who made great, authentic Mexican food for us— like red mole with turkey. We ate extremely well.
I was born in Mexico City. My dad is from San Sebastian, Spain and my mom is American. Somehow, they met in Mexico, they stayed there, they got married there, and I was born there.
I wanted to go to art school, but my dad discouraged me from doing that, saying, “That's great, but when you graduate, what are the chances that you're going to be the next Picasso? Why don't you think about something else that you think you could live with?” Cooking didn't seem like too terrible of an idea. But becoming a pastry chef happened in a roundabout way. After studying and working in various kitchens, I started sending resumes out to restaurants in New York City and I got a job working the hot appetizer station in a restaurant there. After two weeks of pure unadulterated misery, I started looking for another job. There was an opening for a pastry cook at the River Café in Brooklyn. I was purely a savory chef then, but I still decided to give it a shot and I went to trail there. It was an eye-opening experience because I went from this miserable job to something that was almost second nature to me. I only had to see the plating of the desserts once and I knew how to plate them. They offered me a job on the spot. 2 ½ years later, I was promoted to pastry chef. That was when my career really started. But it was my experience at The French Laundry that made me become the pastry chef that I am now.
I think that there are so many things that can be done in the pastry world that haven't been done yet. Basically, they're right in front of our eyes, and the thing is, nothing is new. What is new is different ways of seeing things and looking at things, and what I try to do is to look at things from a different perspective. But also, I'm a huge fanatic of understanding the science behind things and understanding greater functionality: how do things work and why do they work a certain way?
I find that being unconventional is not just about putting weird flavors together. Anybody can do that. Putting normal flavors together in a different way, with a new method, can be unconventional. And that's why I chose chocolate as a medium for my business, Hudson Chocolates. There are still so many things about chocolate that we don't know. There are things that work on a purely scientific level, basically, because of what they're made of and what's inside of them. Everything that we have on our menu is the result of years of research and testing and trying and making it work. Sometimes things don't work and you have learn to either take a different approach or just walk away and try something new.
There's not one single source for my inspiration, and thankfully, it can come from anywhere. I'm very visual and I think that that's why I was going to go to art school. Aesthetics plays a pretty big role in what our chocolates are going to become. We think about flavor and season, and then everything just kind of starts to tie in together to a theme that makes sense. But sometimes it's as simple as having really great apples, and making something with them. So we are not going to do the weird thing for the sake of doing the weird thing. We're going to do it because we know what we're doing with food, we know how to handle ingredients and we didn't just start cooking yesterday. This has been the result of a lifetime of obsessing over food and desserts.