Jose Oscar Casimiro Segundo: “I’m very proud I can transmit my culture with my dish”

The young chef representing Central America and the Caribbean talks culture and tradition ahead of the Grand Finale.

Chef Jose Oscar Casimiro Segundo of Ajumú restaurant in Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico was crowned the best young chef in Central America and the Caribbean during the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 local final. 

Segundo’s dish ‘Barbacoa y cenizas’ or barbecued rabbit received a unanimous vote from the judges meaning he new gets the chance to represent his region and showcase his skills at the Grand Finale in Milan in May.

We spoke to him ahead of the event to find out more about his preparations with chef mentor Mikel Alonso, and the challenge that lies ahead.

Describe your signature dish …
My dish is called 'Barbacoa y Cenizas'. It’s rabbit barbacoa with carrot nixtamalizada, squash purée, crust of corn and ashes, wild mushroom powder, reduced rabbit stock with burnt chilis, and to finish the dish, but no less important, because they form part of the flavours too, quélites and flowers.

I decided on this dish because it represents my culture and traditions, it reminds me of my childhood and the place where I came from.

What made you become a chef?
I became interested in the kitchen when I was an eight-year-old kid. I had to take care of my siblings and also I saw the love my mother had for cooking.

Who has influenced you in your career?
Virgilio Martinez and René Redzepi.

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 year’s time?
I see myself together with my wife, who is also a cook, and having a formal restaurant based on our current project, Ajumú taller de cocina.

How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor, Mikel Alonso, in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?
I will practice the dish with him in his restaurant for a period of time.

Jose Oscar Casimiro Segundo with chef mentor Mikel Alonso

What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
First of all, I feel very proud that I can transmit that culture of where I came from and show that part of my Mazahua community. Also that we have excellent cooks, food and old techniques that we respect a lot.

Why do you think you can win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?
Because I’m preparing to improve the techniques and the beauty of the dish and also because I’m doing something that is very representative of my country, but taken to the root level of investigation and culture.

If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
I would be working in agriculture.

What’s your most memorable food experience?
Every time I taste a new ingredient, for me, I think it’s in those moments that I’m a chef.

What do you like to do in your free time?

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