Jason DeBriere Brings Mexican Up North

Who said Mexican can’t be eaten outside the Texas border? Jason DeBriere is changing the cliché in NYC with his restaurant, Café El Presidente

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How did your early Italian food training help you later excel at all types of cuisine?

I think my early training in Italian cuisine really taught me about the fundamentals of cooking clean food with fresh and seasonal ingredients. I have always felt that regardless of the cuisine being cooked, there must be a strong understanding of the very basics. What i learned in San Francisco and New York really paved the way for me as a chef and had a significant impact on the way I approach food of any cuisine.

I heard you also are excellent at Southern American cooking. Does Mexican food ever work its way into this style? What’s your fav Southern comfort dish?

Thank you. There is definitely crossover in Southern cuisine, especially the closer you get to the Mexican border. I think the biggest commonality is the use of corn, which is used throughout the south and obviously all over Mexico. Although most of the applications are different, you find corn in many areas of both cuisines. The use of chiles is also prevalent in both cuisines. For example, barbecue is the South’s version of medicos barbacoa – although the preparation may differ greatly, the idea and the way it is cooked is very similar…slow cooked and lots of love. Barbecue would have to be my favorite Southern Comfort food!

When it isn’t possible to use entirely fresh meats and vegetables, like during a bad ice storm, how do you adapt your menu?

I always have a back up plan when planning my menu, especially around severe weather – you have to! I typically have more than one purveyor in play for meat, poultry, fish and vegetables, and can get whatever I need.  There are, however, times (even in NYC) when I can not get fresh shrimp or squid, for example, and I 86 them from the menu. Freshness is paramount in my kitchen.

And how do you adapt your food with the times? Do you change the menu often?

We’re in Mexico every other month or so, visiting different regions throughout the country, learning about new dishes or techniques. We change the menu quarterly, and run daily specials that reflect seasonality, although there are several signature dishes on our menu that we keep year round.  As far as adapting our menu with the times, I’m not trying to make or reinvent the taco, I’m really just trying to make the best taco i can using the freshest ingredients and utilizing the most authentic flavor profiles. We’re making every single thing in-house from scratch, including fresh tortillas throughout the day, the way it has been done in Mexico for years.

What is the most ordered entree amongst your clients?

Our most ordered item is probably the Tacos al Pastor. We roast the thinly sliced marinated pork on a vertical spit, the way it is traditionally done in Mexico City, and serve it on fresh corn tortilla with pineapple. The Crispy Fish is also very popular, ours is prepared with beer battered cod and served with pickled cabbage and a poblano mayo.

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