Chef Ivan Chavarria Hernandez Flavors of Mexico Asia

Ivan Chavarria Hernandez – Flavours of Mexico Asia

Chef Ivan Chavarria Hernandez – Flavours of Mexico Asia

In this interview, Chef Ivan Chavarria Hernandez, founder of Flavours of Mexico Asia, offers some insight into the chef profession.

What do you do?

I’m a chef consultant living in Bali, Indonesia, but I am exploring my horizons in Malaysia.

How did you get into the industry?

Being a chef was not always on my radar. I have always wanted to become an engineer, but since I was young, I have been exposed to kitchen life thanks to my Abuelita (grandma) and my aunts. I got to play until the age of 19, when I truly realised I wanted to be a chef.

Share with us a story from behind the scenes.

I started off aiming to be an engineer, and somewhere along the line, I realised it wasn’t for me in the long haul. Funny enough, becoming a chef was something I’d never really considered until it hit me out of nowhere. At 18, I was unsure about what direction to take. On a whim, I jumped into culinary school without knowing what to expect. Lucky for me, it turned out to be a blast. I absolutely loved being part of events, exploring new flavours, and chatting with people.

That whole experience was incredible, and believe it or not, I landed a full scholarship. I finished my culinary studies in Valencia, Spain. While I’ve always dreamed of living abroad, I didn’t know where I’d go and how I would get there. But I was lucky with the chefs who supported me in my journey, and that’s how I ended up here in Asia.

What food memory from your childhood or travels stands out?

As a child, I was so lucky as my family liked to travel to different states in Mexico. I had the chance to taste the beauty and diversity of Mexican cuisine, including the combination of indigenous cuisine and spices. But one of my fond memories was my weekend trips to Veracruz with my family. My late father liked to have fresh fish and prawns from that state and didn’t mind the three-hour drive just to have the food there. It was worth it for my dad, and it was definitely memorable for me.

What’s the best/worst part of your job?

The best part of my job is showing people the diversity of Mexican cuisine. The worst part is the long hours you have to spend standing on your feet without being able to sit or the time you can’t spend with your loved ones.

What’s one of Chef Ivan Chavarria Hernandez’s favourite food and beverage pairings?

As a foodie, that’s a tough question and very subjective. I’ll eat anything in good company. But if I were on my own and had to choose, it would be a really good burger paired with a cold Coca-Cola – because we Mexicans love Coca-Cola!

What’s one of the scariest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?

Too many to remember! But the scariest day in my career was when one of my colleagues stabbed himself because he was wearing the wrong shoes and slipped and fell onto a knife. Work hazard!

The perfect day off would be …

A beach barbecue with friends.

A day in the life of Chef Ivan Chavarria Hernandez is …

… always stressful but, at the same time, full of enjoyment.

What does Chef Ivan Chavarria Hernandez do for fun?

I like watching series with my wife or having a BBQ at the beach. I am a simple person who doesn’t need much to be happy.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Flavours of Mexico?

Flavours of Mexico is capable of recreating what food is like in Mexico and showcasing how versatile Mexican food is.

How have you grown in your profession? What have you learned from your start in the industry until now? Are there any misconceptions?

I have learned so much during my 10 years in Asia, a beautiful continent with so much to offer through history and food. I knew so little of this part of the world; Asia was just Vietnam, Singapore, and China because that is what Hollywood used to show us in America when I was growing up. But being here opened my mind to many things: culture, religions, traditions, and more. My key learnings are to keep an open mind and read about history as that will show you the way of cooking.

What do you want people to know about being a chef as a profession?

I would like to tell people that being a chef is not like what you see on TV. To become one, you must sacrifice family time and important days, regardless of your beliefs. There will be times when you question yourself about the amount of hours that you spend on your feet and if the money you make is enough to justify those times you lost with your loved ones. But when you see people enjoying and smiling and telling you all about how tasty your food is, that will give you the drive. F&B is not for many, but it is one way of travelling the world and connecting with people in different ways. And that, for me, is worth it.

What’s your view on the F&B scene in Bali?

The F&B scene is very competitive in Bali. While many imagine they can just open a trendy-looking restaurant, there’s much more to it, including food quality, service, location, price, and staff management.

What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement to work towards social responsibility and sustainability in the future?

I am a strong advocate for zero-waste cooking. That involves knowing how to prep only the amount you need in a week and also challenges your brain to do things with items that typically other people throw away. For example, you can do a beautiful broth with veggie stems and roots and not only use the leaves. In Mexico, I used to take the skin of peeled potatoes and mix them with a chicken rub (salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, oil), then put it in the oven for crispy and tasty chips. I also like creating smaller menus with the best quality ingredients and flavours.

Read more interviews like this one with Chef Ivan Chavarria Hernandez here, and stay updated with the latest gourmet and travel recommendations here and here.

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