When Francisco ‘Paco’ Ruano was a teenager, he couldn’t wait to escape his home town of Guadalajara in western Mexico, setting off to work on cruise ships in order to travel the world. Some 15 years later, the chef-restaurateur is the city’s leading culinary ambassador, attracting increasing numbers of hungry and curious visitors to his restaurant, Alcalde.
Opened in 2013, shortly after Ruano had returned to the city of his birth, Alcalde’s very existence is a celebration of Guadalajaran ingredients, dishes and people. “People told me not to open here,” says the 33-year-old. “It’s a traditional city in food terms, but I wanted to open a restaurant that spoke of who I am, not what I can do, and to offer people something that was not already available.”
A modernist space with an open kitchen and striking coloured-glass lighting, Alcalde serves a menu rooted in regional traditions and produce, but executed with a lighter touch and a flair for artistic plating. Dishes, which pack a flavour punch, include piglet with pumpkin seed sauce; roast sweetbreads with corn, ashes and milk; scallop ceviche with citrus fruits; and mango in elderflower syrup with lavender ice cream. Diners can select à la carte options or take advantage of a short, impactful tasting menu.
Ruano, who co-owns Alcalde with Luis Mora and Eduardo Cabrera, trained under Thierry Blouet at Café des Artistes in Puerto Vallarta in the Noughties before heading to San Sebastian to further his culinary education. His three years in Europe included stints cooking at the esteemed trio of Mugaritz, El Celler de Can Roca and Noma, which combined to shape his philosophy of dedicated improvement and respect for nature and seasonality.
The result is a restaurant that not only strives to provide a unique gastronomic experience, but also seeks to educate and promote local talent: the overwhelming majority of Ruano’s kitchen brigade are recruited straight from the local culinary school. With critics and diners united in their praise, Alcalde is evidently succeeding in its ambitions, prompting its selection as this year’s One To Watch.
The chef and his partners are planning to open a second, more accessibly priced restaurant later in 2016 that showcases traditional dishes and is ‘less cheffy’. It will, of course, be located in Guadalajara, a city that could yet become the culinary hotspot Ruano dreams of.
Av. México 2903
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