Chef Christian Ortiz is a native New Yorker with roots in the Dominican Republic. More specifically, Chef Ortiz traces his heritage to the Taíno people who arrived in the Dominican Republic by way the Yucatan Peninsula and serves as his inspiration in creating dishes for YUCO.
He has always had a passion for food and service. As a small child, he would relish in any opportunity to make his friends, family, and guests’ snacks and small bites. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu but was greatly influenced by his experience cooking in kitchens from New York to Florida including as Sous Chef at Time Warner’s Landmarc and Prime House. From March 2013-17, Ortiz was chef and co-founder of C.C.O. Consulting Group, where he built restaurants from concept to operations; training staff and building kitchens. Clients included Wine Bar, The Taco Project, Millennial Trains Projects and Sincerely Burger. After a decade studying the culinary arts, YUCO is Chef Ortiz’s first opportunity to give true expression to his vision and showcase his talents.
Broadwayworld Food and Wine had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Ortiz about his background and YUCO for our “Chef Spotlight.”
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
My earliest interest in cooking was actually making snacks for friends and family during family reunions. The joy of seeing someone eat a small bite, or plateful, of something I created, has always been a pleasure of mine.
Who were some of your career mentors?
There were definitely a few stellar individuals who cared about my future. Chef Brian O’donoghue, and Chef David Hynes, were probably the first. I think most recently my business partner, Trent Walker, he’s been pretty instrumental in nurturing my talents. Creative people can be whimsically inconsistent at times. I’d like to believe I’m pretty focused, but let’s just say it takes a village.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I would have to say French gastronomy, and modernist cooking, are at the forefront of what shaped my cooking style. I thoroughly love all ethnic cuisines. Their history, authenticity, and evolution are something I can never get enough of. Trying an adobado, for instance, and being able to spot the regional differences, and the soul of those regions, is, for me, something one cannot teach.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
For me, it’s always been mentorship. Meeting young cooks whose religion is cooking, and being able to help nurture, and expand, their skill sets. The bonds that occur between the staff we serve as leaders, is something that will always cherish
What is your favorite meal or meals?
That’s a tough one, I’d have to say a perfect soft scramble with avocado, or the rajas at Casa Enrique.
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers
YUCO is a truly unique dining experience. We focus a lot on recreating flavor profiles, presented in a very contemporary format. Authenticity is very much at the forefront of our culinary program, and it runs neck and neck with being innovative. We chose the Yucatan Peninsula, because it speaks to our underdog background. We are certainly not traditional, nor do we wish to be so. Our service, staff, and offerings are very well honed to provide our patrons with the best possible dining experience; and that’s really what it’s about for us.
YUCO is located at 33 West 8th Street, New York, NY 10011. For hours of operation and menus, visit their web site at https://www.yucorestaurant.com/ and call them at 646.707.0409. You can also contact them at [email protected]. Follow them on Instagram @yucorestaurant.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Whitten