5 Questions With: Juan Pablo Cruz of Gema

Gema’s executive chef trained in Mexico City and is a purist when it comes to authentic ingredients.
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Favorite ingredient?

My favorite ingredient in everything, pardon me, is love. Love is time. Love is research. Love is study. You can follow a recipe, but if you don’t put love into it, it is not the same.

OK, favorite food ingredient?

Chile peppers, spice. We use a lot of chile mora. Fresh, the pepper is red jalapeno; dried and smoked, it becomes chipotle; smoked longer, it’s chile mora. I use chile mora in food, in drinks, in desserts.

Why ingredients from Mexico?

I can’t pretend to present Mexican gastronomy, real Mexican food, without bringing real ingredients. Rules for the producers here are different, and you can tell the difference in the taste right away. Even if you buy (items) in Mexican stores here, most aren’t from Mexico.

Favorite music?

When I’m cooking, or prepping, it has to be classical—instrumental and very slow.

Hobbies outside the kitchen?

I lift weights. Working out helps clear my mind so I can focus on the important things swirling around in my brain.

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