Five minutes with Adriana Cavita
Chef Adriana Cavita, opened her debut restaurant Cavita last summer in Marylebone, which aims to celebrate and honour Mexican culture by staying true to the food of Adriana’s childhood. Expect the chef’s take on traditional dishes like aguachiles, quesabirrias and tamales, in a location that is as vibrant and warm as the food.
We caught up with Adriana, who was listed as one of CODE’s 100 most influential women for 2022, to talk barbacoa broth, the cost-of-living crisis and the importance of corn.
What’s your very first memory of food?
I have a couple, walking with my grandma to the market or to the mill place to ground the corn for the corn dough. I remember watching how she worked the dough for the tortillas whilst I played with the dough alongside her, learning how to make little gorditas and little sopecitos.
What’s the first recipe you properly learned to make?
I would say these corn recipes! Corn is the basis of so many dishes in Mexico and one of the first things I really got involved in making. Really simple things like quesadillas, gorditas.
What do you like to do to relax?
Go to yoga classes, go out of the city and walk in the forest, play with my cat, Nico.
What’s the one dish you can’t live without?
I love simple things like quesadillas, enchiladas. I really love the barbacoa broth on the weekends that big families make together back home. It’s too much food for one person, so I’ve not done it for a while!
What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?
Corn – it is the basis to so many of my favourite recipes and it really is the most versatile ingredient.
You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… who would you invite?
Stephen Hawking, Barack Obama and Nezahualcoyotl. The first two are probably self-explanatory but the last is something very specific to me. I learned all about Nezahualcoyotl at school, he was a philosopher and rule of Mexico before the Spanish conquest, I just think he’d be an incredible figure to meet and learn about the original culture of Mexico.
What has been the most formative experience of your career?
El Bulli – my time working there really influenced the direction of my cooking.
It’s 8pm, you’ve just got home. What are you rustling up for dinner?
I’d order Indian or sushi – London has great options for both and I like to have a bit of variety in my life.
Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you? We’d like to hear your thoughts
I have always felt I have had to work twice as hard to be recognised as a chef. I am a woman and I am Mexican – it is not the most welcoming world for people like me. I also feel the world of professional cooking is very dehumanising, we all strive for perfection at the detriment of everything else. Balance is so important.
We would love to hear more about what it was like growing up in Mexico. What was your favourite food as a child? Has your family’s approach to cooking influenced you?
It was amazing honestly, being in contact with nature, street markets and the incredible multicultural community is priceless. But the darker side of Mexico does does breed a lot of insecurity for women, it can be a violent place and it is very patriarchal.
How do you find the Mexican food scene in the UK?
I think – finally – the cuisine has exploded onto the UK food scene. I love seeing the inspiration so many chefs I admire take from the food of my homeland. It is still very difficult to find products, but we can get the basics. People are definitely more interested in it and happy to try more things, guests at Cavita have loved trying our grasshopper salt for the first time for instance!
What is the current menu item you are most excited about?
The quesabirria is super good and I love the aguachile and the octopus too. They will stay on the menu for a while.
How is the restaurant coping with the cost of living crisis? How do you think it will affect you and your customers?
It’s really tough, we cook everything in the restaurant, everything is handmade, that’s a lot of labour hours, plus using Mexican ingredients is expensive. Now adding on the electricity and gas bill rises, we will need to increase prices and that will impact the customer. But we are trying our best to not affect them that much.
Do you have any aspirations and dreams you’ve yet to fulfill?
I’m always ready to learn and travel… Peru, Bolivia, Japan, Africa, Switzerland, Iceland. I’d love to go to India and learn more about the cuisine and preparations. I’d love to finish a cookbook, have my own farm and plant herbs, flowers, veggies in my garden.
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