Culinary Jewel of Mexican City – Tamayo Restaurant
Tamayo Restaurant situated in Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art, is the most stylish and spectacular place I have ever been to and eaten at. If you go to Mexico’s capital you mustn’t miss it.The manager, Naguib Kuri, also a chef of the restaurant, is a true gentelman – globetrotter and exceptionally professional. You will taste the flavors created by him, mainly from Mexico, but enriched with his international food experiences from Liban, his native land (he’s half Libanese, half Mexican), and Italy, the country he loves.
Tamayo’s cuisine is extremely delicious and contemporary, as a museum of which the structure is part of. “It has its own personality”, Nagubi told me in a short interview for JL realized last summer at the restaurant, in the biggest Mexican park, Bosque de Chapultepec. Asked about why he decided to manage a restaurant inside the museum, the Mexican chef replied: “I understand it as an expression of bringing art, design, culture, coexistence and gastronomy together in one place”. Definitely this project can be called successful.
Imagine that, in the beginning, Tamayo Museum just had a small café zone. Only in 2014 the current President, Olga, and Rufino Tamayo, had the wonderful vision of building an art shop and change the location into a restaurant with an excellent terrace in the middle of the Chapultepec forest. Teodoro González de León and Abraham Zabludovsky were the architects. In March 2019 the restaurant will be renovated and soon will surprise with a newyork-like food influence. Can’t wait to go back there!
Naguib, you are a cosmopolitan person, not only because of your curious origins but because of your travels and experiences. Since when have you been working in world of restaurants?
I started with small things. I had been playing in restaurants and cooking since I was 6 years old. I got my first job in this sector when I was 17. I have already been approximately 12 years in the industry of gastronomy, wine and service.
What is the concept of the kitchen proposed by Restaurante Tamayo?
It is a contemporary cuisine. As its definition says, it is typical of the moment in which one lives. I am the designer of dishes and Chef del Tamayo, along with my team. My second chef is Miguel Ramirez. We use the newest techniques and we mixed new tastes with the traditional ingredients of Mexico.
You, as a manager and chef, how did you personalize your culinary offer? Is it just Mexican food or does Tamayo mean much more?
Our kitchen has a strong and marked personality. Based on the understanding and experiences of my kitchen team and mine, from the real and organic flavors, to a fair trade with the producers. Where a carnivore, a vegetarian, a vegan and a celiac, can eat together at the same table knowing that no matter what you like, everything has a reason and is of very high quality, and all is nutritional, which is important.
What are your experiences as a restaurateur before opening Restaurante Tamayo? Where did you live? What world cuisines do you estimate?
I have lived in some parts of Europe and Mexico. My family is Lebanese. I highly appreciate Italian and Lebanese cuisine. Fine, simple and traditional is how I would define them, but full of nuances, regional variety and cultural wealth. There are two dishes that I used as a launch padd to make us known, with, in my opinion, spectacular Mexican ingredients: The Risotto of Cuitlacoche and The Fusilli of Ocosingo cheese from Chiapas. We cook them with the traditional Italian recipe, but incorporating in it the great Mexican ingredients.
The specific thing about that restaurant is that it is inside a museum. How is that mixture of culture and cuisine presented? Is your first project like that?
My first project in a museum, yes. I understand it as an expression of bringing art, design, culture, coexistence and gastronomy together in one place. The success is complete. We have the segment that appreciates and seeks this type of cuisine with research, quality and empathy with the planet. I had always worked in restaurants, in many kitchens. Ireland, Spain, Italy, Oaxaca, Mexico City and Cancun are some places where I studied and worked. I highly appreciate Italian and Lebanese cuisine.
How is the history of the restaurant and yours as general manager? Who inaugurated it, who first had the idea of opening it or was it your idea?
In the beginning, the space was a small cafeteria, café. Then, the current President of the Olga and Rufino Tamayo David Cohen Foundation that year, had the excellent vision of building an art shop and setting up the cafeteria in a restaurant with an excellent terrace in the middle of the Chapultepec forest. I met David in 2014. He proposed to change the cafeteria into a restaurant. From there all began and from that moment I have been in charge of Tamayo Restaurant.
Tamayo has a very beautiful and trendy contemporary architecture. Who is an architect who collaborated with you?
The Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by the architects Teodoro González de León and Abraham Zabludovsky.
What is your menu? When does it change and what are the changes? Who visits you?
Being in the same museum complex, the restaurant receives 40% of foreigners and 60% of Mexicans. I change the menu approximately every 4 months. Depending on the products, season of the year and research.
What are the most spectacular events that Tamayo Restaurant has managed to realize?
I remember my favorite, the opening of Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition for the museum. An event for 6 thousand people. Among others for MOMA people in NY, the Parliament of Canada – to name a few.
Would you still like to change (or improve) Tamayo’s image? Do you have some projects for the future that deal with that? New collaborations, new design, new culinary influences ecc.
In March of 2019 we will be remodeling the restaurant and changing the menu.
The menu brings many influences from trips to Oaxaca, New York. It’s a cooking process to preserve nutrients, colors and flavors but deconstructing them.
Your place is very famous in Mexico, and we hope it is in the whole world, the press is very interested in Tamayo. For me you are revolutionaries of the kitchen. What magazines has already discovered you? Which other countries do you want to conquer?
Thank you! We have been in Quien, Caras, Food & Travel, El Gourmet, local newspapers in Mexico, Robb Repport, Desing Hunter, Chilango and on the radio. I have had proposals to bring this concept to Litter and the United States, but I have not accepted them at the moment.
Do you yourself feel revolutionary? How is Naguib Kuri as manager? How would you characterize yourself?
This could be answered better by the restaurant customers or my team. I consider myself always active, with humility to learn from everyone, demanding, exact, creative, consistent, inclusive, developing the capabilities of people and positive. I am always in constant forward change, informing myself, educating and reading. I pass this on to my team.
Chef Kuri, what is your personal diet to maintain yourself fit?
It’s important to be disciplined. My breakfast is with vegetable proteins. I keep away from meat and fried or processed products. I eat well and I am active. My rule is, to be positive, to always keep your mind active and in the same time to be calm and to meditate.
Would you like to open the same restaurant in Europe? Or are you about to open a new location? If yes, where and what will it be?
This year I will probably open my own restaurant. When I have more information I will let you know.
Writen by Joanna Longawa
Photographs by Paolha Broude (NK) & Hernàn Benchaya (JL)