Mexican-born, Michelin Star chef Carlos Gaytan living the dream through Chicago restaurant Tzuco

ByBlanca Rios WLS logo
Friday, October 15, 2021
Mexican-born, Michelin Star chef Carlos Gaytan 'living American dream' through his cuisine, Chicago restaurant Tzuco
Mexican-born Carlos Gaytan moved his way up from the back of the kitchen to Michelin Star chef and owner of the world-renowned Tzuco in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It was exactly 30 years ago that a young aspiring chef from Mexico came to Chicago with nothing but a backpack and a dream.

"I obviously had a dream, but I didn't know it was going to be real, this is even beyond my dreams," said Carlos Gaytan.

Fast forward and Carlos Gaytan is now Chef-owner of Tzuco in the city's Gold Coast neighborhood, where the food is a blend of his Mexican heritage with a French twist.

"They're not going to find the traditional cooking, they're not going to find enchiladas, they're not going to find tacos," said Gaytan. "But they're going to find tortillas, they're going to find really interesting cuisine."

Gaytan was born in a small town near Acapulco called Huitzuco, which he incorporated into the restaurant name. And it's in the mountains of Huitzuco that Gaytan first found his love for food.

"My father used to take me hunting and it was for meat most of the time. We didn't do sports so when we were in the field, we used to prepare the animal, and it was just my father and me in the mountains. It was just amazing," said Gaytan.

In the kitchen, it was his mom that inspired Gaytan to think outside of the box.

"My mom, she was really creative all the time, maybe she didn't have the money to go the market and create one recipe. Instead, she used to go to the fields and pick all the ingredients and cook with them. She did an amazing, amazing job," Gaytan said.

In fact, Tzuco's top-selling dish is his mom's Cochinita Pibil, a deliciously marinated pulled-pork. Gaytan assures that all his food is mom-approved.

"She comes in the kitchen and she walks around making sure to try food, and she's like okay this good, I like that," said Gaytan.

In 2013, as owner of the now-closed Mexique in West Town, Gaytan became the first Mexican-born chef to earn a coveted Michelin star. But it didn't come easy.

Chef Carlos Gaytan is the first Mexican chef to receive a Michelin star.

"One of the things that people do not realize is that you have stop being scared about things because everything can happen. If you really desire and you work really hard and you sacrifice so many things, they become real. This is real," Gaytan said.

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So real that people come to Tzuco from all over the world for a taste of his food.

"It's an honor just to be here in Chicago and share everything that I know with people. they're not just locals, you know, now it's a must stop ," said Gaytan.

Aside from Tzuco , Gaytan also owns the restaurant "Ha" in Mexico and is on the verge of opening a third restaurant in California.