Enrique Olvera, CIA culinary arts alumni, is chef/owner at Restaurante Pujol.

Alumni Bio: Enrique Olvera

Owner, Grupo Enrique Olvera

Enrique Olvera ’99 is an internationally renowned chef and owner of Grupo Enrique Olvera. His restaurants in Mexico City include the award winning Pujol, Molino El Pujol, a totilleria for making traditional tortillas, three Eno gourmet coffee shops, and Casa Teo—a culinary workshop and small inn named one of the greatest places to visit in 2018 by Time magazine. Further afield from Mexico, Olvera owns Moxi at Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende and Manta at The Cape Hotel in Cabo San Lucas. His first restaurant outside of Mexico is Cosme in New York City, named after a market in Mexico City where Olvera’s grandfather took him as a young boy. He also opened Cata, a tapas bar located in the Bowery, and Alta that serves modern Mexican cuisine in lower Manhattan.

Cosme has garnered much recognition. It was nominated for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant Award, named 2015 Restaurant of the Year by Eater.com, listed as one of the Best Restaurants of 2015 by Food & Wine, and the recipient of a three-star review from The New York Times. Cosme’s chef de cuisine, Daniela Soto-Innes, took home the 2016 James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year honors.

Olvera was born in Mexico City. He moved to the United States to enroll at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, graduating with an associate degree in 1997. He went on to earn his CIA bachelor’s degree in 1999. During his studies, Olvera earned various awards, including a gold medal from the New York Société Culinaire Philanthropique and the Jacob Rosenthal Leadership Award from the college.

After graduation, he got his first job at Everest, one of Chicago’s most exclusive restaurants. In 2000, armed with classical training and haute cuisine experience, Olvera returned to Mexico City to open his own restaurant, Pujol, a slurring of pozole, his nickname in school. There, he embarked on an exploration of Mexico’s culinary riches—reinterpreting and rearticulating its flavors, styles, and techniques from the perspective of contemporary cooking. “Pujol is how I picture Mexico City, and how I want people to experience Mexico,” Olvera explains. “It’s not nostalgic, it’s a little bit loud, a little bit of a mess, and very Mexican.” He is respected by fellow chefs worldwide for his creations. As Ferran Adrià says, “There was Mexican food before Enrique Olvera, and Mexican food after Enrique Olvera.”

Pujol is ranked #13 on the 2018 S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurant list and number three on the 2018 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Olvera was named the 2015 International Chef of the Year by The Daily Meal and received The Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award for Latin America. He has earned a well-deserved accolade from his fellow elite professionals across the region—the Chefs’ Choice Award, voted for by the chefs of the S.Pellegrino Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Pujol now proudly serves as an approved internship site for current CIA students, so Olvera can pass on lessons he learned to future graduates of the college.

Olvera has published two books: La Nueva Cocina Mexicana, in 2000; and his first English-language cookbook, entitled Mexico From the Inside Out, in October 2015.

In 2012, Olvera, along with the Colectivo Mexicano de Cocina A.C., launched Mesamérica, a three-day conference to promote Mexican gastronomy outside of Mexico and bring the country into the global culinary conversation. “With Mesamérica, efforts, funds, and contacts could be combined under one roof and strengthen Mexico’s hospitality industry,” Olvera explains.

In the fall of 2018, Olvera will be a judge on the international culinary competition, The Final Table. He was featured in the second season of Chef’s Table, the critically acclaimed show created by filmmaker David Gelb. Olvera is a frequent conference guest and lecturer, and has appeared at the MAD symposium in Copenhagen and Denmark, and Gastronomika in San Sebastian, Spain. He’s contributed to several Latin Flavors, American Kitchen conferences at The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio. On April 20, 2016, at the 18th annual Worlds of Flavor® conference, Olvera was the keynote speaker, presenting The Voice of the Chef: Developing a Personal Philosophy Through Heritage and Training.

“I want Mexican food to keep moving,” he told CNN. “I understand that we have beautiful traditions. I feel very proud of those traditions, but I want to keep on building new ones for future generations. I think we can have a huge impact not only on agriculture but in the way that people eat and their health, in the way our cities grow, and in the way that our culture is carried forward. Food has an influence in almost every part of society.”


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