Hailing from Tabasco in southeastern Mexico, Gabriela Ruiz is a trailblazer for her native cuisine. She owns Gourmet MX, a refined dining restaurant, and Chata Pandal, a gastro-bar in Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco.
• Attended Escuela Culinaria del Sureste in Mérida, Yucatán, continued studies at Escuela D´Gallia in Lima, Peru and at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, Canada
• Trained at PUJOL under Chef-owner Enrique Olvera and Nectar under Chef-owner Roberto Solís
• Nominated as Revelation Chef and Best New Restaurant of Mexico by Food and Travel Magazine, 2014
• Recognized as a “Young Talent” by Joven Maestro Millesime México 2015
• Travels worldwide to share the largely undiscovered tabasqueña kitchen cuisine of Tabasco, influenced by its intense tropical environment. Lectures include Stanford University and University of California Berkeley Food Innovation & Design Symposium and Culinary Institute of America’s Worlds of Flavors International Conference and Festival
• Working on Historias de Carmela (Carmela’s stories) to raise awareness of current Mexican cuisine, customs, and traditions of Tabasco, including the production and consumption of cocoa and chocolate.
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Inspiration from the Homeland
Gabriela Ruiz takes food personally.
“Food can change your mood,” she says. “It touches the soul, speaks through the senses and can even be the perfect cure for what ails you.”
All of that, she says, contributes to her belief that every food or dish has a story. “A cook, in my book, should tell great stories about life and the connection with the most important element in human nature—food.”
Ruiz was born in Comalcalco, Tabasco, a prosperous state in southeastern Mexico. The region is known for the abundance of cacao and its intensely lush tropical environment.
As far back as Ruiz can remember, she has always wanted to be chef. She was the kind of child who was curious about whatever food arrived at the family table.
Ruiz’s appreciation for indigenous ingredients, such as the cacao trees and herbs unique to the region, convinced her to practice her craft where she was born. She opened Gourmet MX, which started as a catering business. But as word of her talent spread, the space expanded into a restaurant, private dining room and cheese shop.
“I would say that one of my biggest assets is the ability to combine ingredients, techniques and flavors along with creating a story to share with others,” she says.
“At first, my team did not understand my style of cooking. They were fascinated by molecular cuisine and how stylish presentations were. It has been a great challenge and a personal growing experience, creating my own style and convincing my team that taste and flavor continues to be the most significant aspect.”
“Presentation is important,” she continues, “but what I really want to accomplish is a mouthful of taste that leaves you breathless, allowing you to make a connection with a specific moment.”
Ruiz says she is fortunate that her year-round tropical region of Mexico is an endless source of ingredients and inspiration. While ingredients of her homeland aren’t always available fresh, excellent substitutions are typically attainable.
“When I cook I look forward to creating harmony and balance in my dishes, always searching for the perfect scenario that only comes from technique, intuition and the best quality of ingredients,” she says. “We certainly believe we are doing something different that allows us to live an adventure that keeps us grounded and excited every minute of the day.”