Chef Chat, Part 1: Aquiles Chavez of La Fisheria

Categories: Chef Chat

Aquilas 1.jpg
Aquilas Chavez, chef/owner of La Fisheria, deftly maneuvers braised octopus in his kitchen.
The first time you meet Mexican chef and Latin American TV personality Aquiles Chavez of the new restaurant La Fisheria, you immediately get a sense of his larger-than-life personality. He's gregarious, funny, confident, outgoing and wholly unself-conscious. But most importantly, he grew up in the kitchen and loves being there.

Last week, Chavez sat down for a candid chat about everything from his mustache to his training to what made him decide to leave his beloved homeland to start fresh in Houston.

EOW: Aquiles Chavez. Tell me about yourself.

AC: Okay. I was born in Mexico City 35 years ago, born in February 1977.

EOW: You want to reveal how old you are?

AC: [Jokingly] All the time I say I'm a 20-year-old kid in a body of a fat guy with a mustache.

EOW: [Laughs.] You're not fat! The mustache is a large part of your identity. Why the mustache?

AC: I started in the kitchen in a hotel. When you work in the kitchen in a hotel, you have no hair on your head or your body, not on your face, nothing. So when I opened up my own restaurant, I decided to make my real look. You know, because when you're in a hotel, you're like a robot, you don't have soul, nothing. Even you don't have a person. So in this moment, I decided to create my own look, to be again myself. Why the mustache? Because you see in the old movies, you see the guys with hat and the mustache, so much personality. That's the reason for the mustache.

EOW: So, you are kind of a star in Latin America, yes? Tell me about that. People here don't know you.

AC: I started in the kitchen when I was 16. The kitchen is all that I have, all that I do. Of course, when you start to make your own career, you think it's nice to be part of show. But one day, a channel called Utilisima called me and said they saw me in some magazines. Why the magazines? Before I opened my first restaurant, Lo, which in my language means "kid, or boy," like a rascal, I went to school in France, ADF by Alain Ducasse. They taught me all classical French, traditional techniques.

EOW: How long were you there?

aquilas pouring.jpg
Chavez pours some of the best, if not the best, tortilla soup in town

AC: Three months. So when I came back from Alain Ducasse, I started to make French cuisine, but in Mexico it was very difficult to try to find the ingredients, and to try to find the people who would buy this food, because it was so expensive. So in this moment I changed French products for Mexican products.

EOW: French cuisine with Mexican products?

AC: Yes.

EOW: So give me an example of something you changed.

AC: So to make my pâté, I used turkey liver. But when I started to get more and more into local products, I started to know more about local recipes and local techniques. In this moment, I changed my point of view about the cuisine, and I decided not to continue with French cuisine. I started to learn about the Mexican cuisine. This was eight years ago.

EOW: Wait, so go back. Before Lo and Alain Ducasse, where were you?

AC: I was at the Hyatt in Villermosa. I was the Chef de Cuisine for Fine Dining.

EOW: So you were in charge of fine dining. I was a little confused because you said you decided to learn Mexican, but you're Mexican!

AC: You know why? When you go to the culinary arts school in this moment -- in the '90s -- they don't teach Mexican cuisine, they teach French and European cuisine. All the chefs in my university were from Switzerland, and when we asked, "Hey, chef, do you want to teach us Mexican cuisine?" they said no, you learn that on your own, in your house, not in the school. That's the way it was at that time. But now, Mexico's completely different. Right now, the culinary arts schools in Mexico are focused on Mexican cuisine because they know it's the future. But 20 or 30 years ago, if you wanted to be a chef, there were only two possibilities. If you were rich, your family could send you to France to learn at the Cordon Bleu. If you didn't have money, you start as a dishwasher.

Check back with us tomorrow as Chavez tells us more about the journey that brought him to Houston and about the cuisine you can expect to find at La Fisheria.



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Location Info

La Fisheria

4705 Inker St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
Theresa Martinez
Theresa Martinez

Loved everything!  Got to meet the chef and his partner, his story and exposure is amazing. 

Le Creuset México
Le Creuset México

Congratulations Aquiles and thanks for putting up the Mexican Cuisine!

Sanguinario
Sanguinario

Interesting comment from Aquiles about the Euro-centric emphasis in American cooking schools. I think that all backlashed in the 90s or 2000s and you got a lot of chefs with a tiny bit of exposure to other cuisines. Hence the Fusion confusion. Thai/Jap/Mex/Locavore

It's cool this guy is doing his own thing, with his own roots taking center stage. It's like Underbelly food, if Shepherd were a Mexican coastal transplant arriving in Houston with a passion to bring out the best he had growing up, bumped with classical cooking skills

HeightsKat
HeightsKat

I must be the only one who hasn't had a good meal here.  We went on a Friday night about 8:45 or 9:00pm and the hostess sat us in the bar/front area.  We asked for two margaritas and the server said, "what kind of tequila, we have many kinds", so my boyfriend got up to see the selection (no list) and there were three to choose from.  Our octopus was completely burnt which gave it a terrible consistency on the inside. One of our dishes was forgotten and others were "taken away from us" after we had ordered them. Our server explained that the manager will take food that is intended for his diners and give it to others.  So we ordered the shrimp cocktail at the suggestion of our server because it had "real shrimp"...indeed it did, but it was swimming in what tasted like ketchup.  Overall everything was terribly bland.  So we got the check and of course the forgotten items were not removed, we complained, we paid, we walked by the hostess texting on her phone and vowed to never return.  Coming from someone who has been working in the business for over a decade I can understand off nights, but this was just bad.

TQro
TQro

My only negative point, no local craft beer on the menu.  I hope that changes.

Flandersdegroot
Flandersdegroot

I've tried many a great cocktail there, and they have an interesting Mexican wine list from Baja primarily.

Food is killer: ceviche that tastes more of herbs than lime juice astringent. Great raw oysters with black sauce. Salmon carpaccio with what looked like maui buds. And octopus I could eat all day. Go casual and order a michelada to start things off

carrie
carrie

thoroughly enjoyed my first meal there a couple of weeks ago, and can't wait to go back.

Wuwu
Wuwu

I had the pleasure to finally eat here.  My take is this....by far one of the better meals I have had lately.  The shrimp cocktail is like no other, no one even comes close to this.  The menu is creative and the shrimp shooter is another one you just have to order.  The chips and salsa they provide you in a very unique presentation, however the salsa needs to be thicker and the other two mayo based ones need something to differntiate them as they taste very much the same.  I believe this place is on the verge of huge things, with a few minor tweeks it will shine above the rest boring bland offerings in the area. 

We met the chef who you will discover very fast has a true passion for his food.  The staff/service was nice and our waiter was a real pro. 

We tried many of the single tacos, some fish dishes and overall I rate this experience up the ladder.  Make a reservation, don't try to walk in.  They did a very nice job on the decor too. 

Tsurayaba
Tsurayaba

@322a4049e0860f328d86451fedd709e7:disqus My name is Raphael, I am one of the waiters at LaFisheria and one thing we do appreciate is your opinion.. Being good or bad, we need to know what you think about our service and/or our food, to fix or even improve whatever has happened.. We truly recommend you to call before go back, to make sure we can set up a nice place for you and try don't make the same mistakes you post up in here.. My sincerely apologies and hope see you soon..

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

When did you go @HeightsKat? If it was in February, I would say, give it another chance. In February, it was a "soft opening." Sometimes this can happen when a restaurant is just opening.Come for lunch  and sit in the main dining room. It's a different menu, different vibe, get a $2 taco, $6 large shooter, or one of their amazing sopas, a $6 tostade de enamorado (with pulpo), a gorgeous pastel de camaron -- gorgeous food at food truck prices, in a wonderful sea of festive blue accented with orange. I memorized all the dishes because they are so good. 

Dionjangles
Dionjangles

 La Fisheria gets my vote for the sexiest bartender in the city! Yikes! Hard to get any work done there while sitting at the bar. She's like Shakira, only sassier.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

 They have a kickin' frozen house margarita with some spice in it that leaves your lips a little tingly. Could get drunk on that alone. Mexican wine selection pairs well with all the food.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

 I'm with you Wuwu, my experiences there have been stellar. They are definitely "on the verge of huge things!"

HeightsKat
HeightsKat

I went last weekend. For those prices I could stand to try it again.  Thanks for the recs!

Kennedye2
Kennedye2

fyi, she goes by 'Octopussy'

Wuwu
Wuwu

Agree with the comment on the octupus, small firm fresh pieces in many of the dishes make it have that special touch.  Will have to try that spice rita as it sounds interesting. 

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...