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Jose Luis Hinostroza

At Arca, chef-co-owner Jose Luis Hinostroza’s restaurant in the Yucatan Peninsula’s ancient Mayan city of Tulum, a lot of research and development went into creating the menu. R&D might not be what you usually associate with the culinary life, but for Hinostroza, a protégée of Scandinavian chef René Redzepi, of restaurant Noma, it’s one of the most important parts of the job. In an appetizer like Hinostroza’s citrus-less prawn ceviche, pickled cucumber, xoconostle (a type of prickly pear cactus) and hibiscus aguachile, coriander oil, charred habanero powder, with black quinoa cracker, for example, you’d better believe that each and every rare ingredient has been studied, tasted, tested, and sourced sustainably. The wealth and variety of Mexican ingredients was a revelation for Hinostroza. “It took a Danish chef to help me realize how blessed and proud I am to be a part of Mexico,” says Hinostroza, who went with a Noma team to create a pop-up in Tulum and hasn’t left since.

Growing up in San Diego, says Hinostroza, he spent a great deal of time in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border, where extended family and friends lived. It was as much a part of his life as the U.S. After graduating from the San Diego Culinary Institute, he landed a spot in chef Grant Achatz’s Alinea kitchen, where experimentation is the order of the day. “He was the first chef who completely blew my mind,” Hinostroza has said when asked about his influences. “In a way, chef Grant was the one who removed the word impossible from my vocabulary.”

Following his stint at Alinea and before joining Noma, he spent several years in Europe, doing stages at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Oslo’s Maaemo; Girona, Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca, under Jordi Roca; and as sous chef at De Kromme Watergang in Hoofdplaat, The Netherlands.

Next up for Hinostroza are two more Yucatan restaurants, NATAL: Cocina de Tierra, which goes deep into the region’s traditions. In NATAL’s case, that will be literally deep, with the Mayan pib (a cooking pit dug into the earth) the method for cooking almost everything on the menu. A second place, the beachfront EMBERNEST, will serve up tacos and ceviches and meats cooked on an open fire.

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