Chef Jair Téllez is passionate when it comes to cooking, but even more so about people. “My language is food, but people are the medium—connecting with others is what it’s all about for me.” And the Mexico City chef has become a master of his medium, with two restaurants ranked among the 50 Best in Latin America.
The chef made his mark in 2001 with Laja, one of the first high-end restaurants in Baja California, and more recently with MeroToro in Mexico City. Both highly acclaimed places are on San Pellegrino’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list and both feature unpretentious but creative menus that reflect Jair’s life in Mexico.
Jair is from Sonora, a place that encompasses both desert and coast. It is a true fusion of meat and seafood; steakhouses are as integral to the local food scene as are seafood stands. At his restaurants, the dishes are based on Mexican culinary traditions but with a creative spin. Influences are from both California (emphasis on simple and local, seasonal, high-quality ingredients) and Spain but there are always references to the centuries-old traditions of Mexico.
Even an Asian touch sneaks in from time to time “because I love Asian cooking. I have cravings for certain foods, and I go from there,” Jair muses. “Of course I work with what is available and local; on the coast it’s more limited, but in the capital the options are huge so I have to pick and choose. It’s more difficult in a way.”
The chef, now solidly chilango (a Mexico City dweller), adores the city “in the way that only someone not from here can.” and hopes to stay put for the time being. His plans for the future are simple and delicious: “…to be a happy dude! For me, food is an excuse to make meaningful human connections.”