Behind the Box: Meet Chef Adolfo Suaya

Behind the Box: Meet Chef Adolfo Suaya

Buenos Aires native Adolfo Suaya came to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Now the host of his own TV show, Latin American Foodie, he is the owner of several restaurants and hotels in the U.S. and Argentina. At Try The World’s rooftop barbecue party in New York City, Suaya tells us about growing up in Argentina and how he’s managed to continue grilling in the U.S.

What makes Argentinian cooking so special?

Simplicity. There’s not much to it, actually. Argentinians are from Spain or Italy, and no matter what they make, it’s always very basic. It’s the simplicity that makes it so delicious.

So what sort of food did you grow up eating in Argentina?

Back in the days in Buenos Aires, everybody ate steak every single day. When my mom came home from work and I came home from school, she would take a cast iron skillet and put it in the stove with a steak. Sometimes we had ribeye, other times New York or entre côte, sometimes even ground beef. We had meat at least five times per week.

Your childhood certainly lives up to the Argentinian reputation. Are culinary traditions in Argentina changing today?

A lot of people say that the best beef is exported from Argentina, so locals don’t get to enjoy their delicious meat. I don’t believe that. In Argentina, it’s like in America where you can find everything from very cheap to very expensive beef. The difference is that in Argentina we have hundreds of thousands of butchers on every block and on every corner. Thirty years later, beef is still king in Argentina.

What do you miss most about Argentina?

Definitely the asado. In Argentina, most men do the barbecue. But it’s not just about the food. It’s more cultural. It’s about the communication. Just like a tango, it’s a ceremony: you grill steak, you grill sausage, you grill blood sausage, you make your own chimichurri, you buy fresh bread, you have salad, you drink wine, and more wine. And little bit more wine! I miss the Argentinian barbecue, but luckily I now make it here with friends who miss it too.

It’s great that you’ve been able to find a way to continue the asado tradition here. How would you describe your particular style of cooking?

Well, I’ve lived in America for some time now, but I continue to like simple things. All I need in my pantry is olive oil and salt. I try to put those two ingredients in everything.

How did you learn to make asado?

I think most men know how to make the asado because the father teaches his sons. I could show you how a baby at three years old goes to the barbecue and already wants to be a part of it.

Is the asado, then, more of the man’s domain?

Absolutely. Men like to barbecue. The men do the barbecue, the women do the salad, and they meet in the middle.

Do you have any favorite products from the box?

The products are all so good! It’s difficult to pick just one. The chimichurri in particular is quite good. I usually make my own, but this one comes quite close.

Chimichurri is such an essential part of the asado. Are chimichurri recipes also passed down from father to son?

Yes, but you always try to find new ways to make your own. Chimichurri evolves more and more. Twenty years ago, nobody made fresh chimichurri. They bought it in the market and added olive oil and vinegar. Now you chop the parsley. You chop the garlic. Things are changing.

Aside from the chimichurri, do you have any suggestions for ways to use some of the other products?

With the dulce de leche you can make some wonderful things. You could, for example, make crêpes with dulce de leche, pancakes with dulce de leche, ice cream, etc.

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