In June 2015, I had the opportunity to spend a little time at The St. Regis Mexico City. While there, I was introduced to chef Maycoll Calderón, Chef de Cuisine and Director of J&G Grill Mexico City, a collaboration between The St. Regis hotels and the famed Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Calderón cites his father, Wilson Calderón — a sculptor and painter — as the reason why he’s a chef today. “Because of my father’s job, we traveled a lot,” he told me. “I was always tasting new cuisines. It opened my mind to be a cook.” Though he claims the Basque region is “the best place to have food in the world,” with its “simple fish, shellfish, cooked to perfection,” it’s easy to see that his travels in Spain, the United States, Puerto Rico, and Mexico have influenced him.
With his career path determined at a young age, there has to be something that keeps that passion going strong. What’s Calderón’s favorite part about being a chef? “The opportunity to create, to make cool dishes, to meet new people, to make people happy — it really is a noble profession.”
When working in a commercial kitchen, the stress of long hours and a fast pace can take its toll on you. How does Calderón cope? He likes to hit the gym or play tennis. “Staying active” is his way of relieving stress. Watching a good movie with a glass of wine also aids in easing the pressure. (He’s also a pretty fabulous photographer — his Instagram feed is quite beautiful!)
I always wonder what chefs prepare for themselves when they’re off the clock. Surprisingly, Calderón said he never cooks at home. His ideal meal when he’s going solo? “A ham and cheese sandwich, with really good ham and cheese, and a beer.” You can’t mess with that kind of perfection.
What’s Calderón’s advice to aspiring chefs? “Always have in mind that we are cooks and our job is to make people happy with food. Nowadays, chefs are becoming ‘Rock Stars’ and are not really concentrating on what we actually do. Never lose focus. “
Chefs have idols, just like the rest of us. Bill Gates topped Calderón’s list of for whom he’d most like to cook. His reasoning? Because Gates has “changed the way the world communicates.” I wonder if he will be making a reservation now?
Gates will have to make his call to a different location, though. In August 2015, Calderón reached his greatest achievement: opening his own restaurant, Huset Cocina de Campo. Describing his new endeavor as “comfort food,” that will be “simple, delicious, and seasonal,” you’ll find a lot of grilled and wood oven-fired dishes. My interest is piqued! Sounds like I need to return to Mexico City soon!