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(Best Of Year 1) Ñam 2014, The Day After Observations

By Patrick Hieger

(Originally published on 04.07.14)

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

Now that Ñam is over and the wine, hot dogs, tapas, wine, and more hot dogs begins to slowly make its way out of our bodies, let’s take a few minutes to look back at the fourth edition of Chile’s largest and most important food festival.  Lastarria couldn’t have been a better neighborhood to host the festival, within easy walking distance of great food and drinks, and already oozing with ambience.  Certainly the festival’s organizers are already taking notes about what worked, what didn’t, and what’s going to happen in 2015.  We’re already counting down the days.  Below, a look at some of the festival’s main highlights.

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

Ñam, The Day After Observations

By Patrick Hieger

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

Now that Ñam is over and the wine, hot dogs, tapas, wine, and more hot dogs begins to slowly make its way out of our bodies, let’s take a few minutes to look back at the fourth edition of Chile’s largest and most important food festival.  Lastarria couldn’t have been a better neighborhood to host the festival, within easy walking distance of great food and drinks, and already oozing with ambience.  Certainly the festival’s organizers are already taking notes about what worked, what didn’t, and what’s going to happen in 2015.  We’re already counting down the days.  Below, a look at some of the festival’s main highlights.

1. With the whole of Latin America combined, from Mexico to the southernmost tip of Argentina, there’s really nothing stopping the region from leading the next phase of modern food for the foreseeable future.  The innovation, simplification, and homage shown for traditional methods at this year’s Ñam was nothing short of spectacular.  As leaders in the region continue to push their own limits and discover new ingredients and techniques, we can soon expect a whole new crop of chefs to follow in their footsteps and push Latin cuisine further than was ever thought possible.

2. Rescue and return are the two new buzz words that we should be looking out for this year.  As South American chefs start to turn away from European traditions and techniques, a return to the land, to native products, and to products that we didn’t formerly know were edible is inevitable.  With restaurants like D.O.M., Central, and Boragó leading the way, and others like Quintonil, El Baqueano, and Alto falling right in step with them, there’s no telling what this year’s menus will deliver.

3.  When Hogs speaks, hot dog lovers listen.  Hogs’ special “Latin American” menu, which included signature hot dogs from Virgilio Martinez, Narda Lepes, Harry Sasson, and Jorge Vallejo, was nearly sold out by the third day of the festival, and completely unavailable on closing day.  The menu and its launch were, without a doubt, one of the shining highlights of Ñam.  Expect to see more collaborative work from the Food Lab Group in the very near future.

4.  The mystery behind the Log Ladies videos was discovered.  Unfortunately, secrecy has been sworn.

5.  Alex Atala speaks six different languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French–fluently.  He didn’t say what the other two were, but if one of them were Japanese or Russian, it wouldn’t be at all surprising.  It seems that going from punk DJ to one of the world’s leading chefs has its perks.  C’est bon, no?

6.  There is a marked divide between those wishing to pursue modern food to its limits, and those who want nothing to do with anything that isn’t “real” food.  Though Ñam closed with a very noticeable jab at some of the leaders in South America’s modern movement, their food and even their plating style, the rest of the time the comments and remarks were rather general.  That is to say, while many of the invited chefs who are on lists of the world’s best restaurants and other such lists are returning to the traditions of their countries, those chefs that never swayed from them don’t care much for modern food.

7.  Gastón Acurio is a walking production.  On the rare occasion that the godfather of Peruvian cuisine wasn’t on stage or in an auditorium, he was walking around surrounded by boom mics, video cameras, and a pack of reporters.

8.  Video is the new cooking demo.  As food continues to advance and the techniques and machines necessary to create certain dishes do, too, the live cooking demo is becoming increasingly more difficult.  Most of the invited did manage to put up at least one plate, but video was still crucial to their presentations.  Ten years ago it was virtually unheard of to have an in-house video production team.  Now, it’s basically a requirement.

9.  99 is now open.  You can start getting lunch and dinner there Monday through Friday, as of today.

10. Give a chef one hell of a hangover and they’ll give you a great presentation in return.  Not one chef showed up late, skipped a performance, or asked for a moment to themselves.  With the late night dinners, the after parties and the free wine typically going well into the early hours of the morning each day of the festival, you could see that a few of the chefs would have preferred to stay in, but none did.  In fact, it was most likely getting on stage that saved their morning.  It’s a rough life, but somebody’s gotta do it.

11.  South America has one hell of a lot of coastline and rivers to fish from.  With the ideas of rescuing product and returning to tradition as major running themes in many of the presentations, we got to hear about just how much water there is for fish to swim in.  Next time you’re eating Chilean fish in the United States, start asking yourself if you shouldn’t be looking to your own coasts and rivers.

12.  Algae is the new foie gras.  Lake algae.  Mountain algae.  River algae.  Wherever algae can grow, you can bet that leading Latin American chefs are going to find it, cook it, and serve it to you.  Luckily, the majority of it is really quite tasty.

13.  Chile has a lot of incredible artisan products from throughout its different regions.  The Ñam Mercado was an incredible look at just how much diversity there is within Chile, with products ranging from exceptional olives and olive oils, to fresh cheeses, cured meats, artisan wines, and more.

14.  Mocotó’s Rodrigo Oliveira is, without a doubt, the happiest chef on the planet.  It was all smiles and good vibes as chef praised the sausage-making presentation given by Hogs earlier in the morning on day three, and then launched free t-shirts into the crowd to end his presentation.  Want to know about all the different types of flour that Brazil has to offer?  Get an audience with Rodrigo Oliveira, and he’ll gladly tell you.

15.  Not every chef’s childhood was full of gourmet food, rich parents, or even happiness.  Memory was the other big theme of this year’s Ñam, and how that memory–of flavor, of inspiration, of someone else’s cooking–plays a huge role in the chef that each of the presenters is today.  It was interesting to hear chefs talk about their hippie parents, or dysfunctional households, growing up Jewish, or not really being much of a foodie as a kid.  There isn’t a recipe for what makes a good chef great.

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Ñam, Day 4 (Closing Day)

By Patrick Hieger

Oh how those festival organizers know how to do their jobs.  You might think that with Ñam closing, and chefs like Alex Atala and Gastón Acurio already out of Santiago, that closing day might just pack a little less punch than the previous three days of incredible presentations and events, but day four of Santiago’s most important food festival was just as important as the other three.  And, just as delicious.

The morning opened up with Juan Gabler of Cuerovaca and Civico giving guests a lesson in meat.  He should know a thing or two about the topic, given that Cuerovaca is one of Santiago’s leading steakhouses.  He wasn’t just stressing prime cuts, Wagyu, Kobe or Kurobuta style cuts either.  No, the point of the talk was to let people know that even at the grocery store, there’s great meat to be found.  Know what you’re buying and know how to buy.  Unfortunately, there weren’t any samples to get a better idea of what he was talking about, but you can’t have everything.

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Over at Ñam Innova, chef Juan Morales of the forthcoming and highly anticipated d.o. restaurant, got the chance to present his project Juntos Cocinamos.  The project currently works directly with local culinary school Culinary, to put students in participating restaurants and give them a chance to succeed.  Though still in its nascent stages, 11 students have already been placed in the three participating restaurants that include El Mesón de Patagonia, d.o., and Casa Luz.  By next year, the goal is to expand the project to more cities, and across more restaurants, giving participating students a liveable wage and the tools necessary to succeed in the gastronomy industry.

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Closing out Ñam Innova, it was none other than Argentina’s beloved Narda Lepes, speaking about “How to raise an ominvore.”  Both a chef and a mother of two, she discussed the importance of the choices we make when eating.  The big takeaway?  If the parents don’t, the kids won’t.  Kids have windows of time that we need to take advantage of–moments when they’ll be more likely to try new things.  Getting children to eat new things is a constant process of learning, as well as a lot of trial and error.  She also emphasized that kids can’t eat alone.  New places, new venues, new ways of eating will give children the tools they need to become omnivores for life.  Cue the applause.  Fin Ñam Innova.  See you next year.

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Back on the main stage, Carolina Bazán of Ambrosia seemed like she might have been reeling from the chefs’ dinner she held the night before.  Nevertheless, just like any good chef, she pushed through and plated a beautiful dish.  She, like many of the other speakers who stuck to Ñam’s theme, “What does your life taste like?” went back to memory.  Bazán has traveled and lived all over the world, including various countries in South America, the United States, and France.  She trained, and lived, and explored in each of these places, but still remembers prepping food with her mom as a child as a definitive moment in her decision to become a chef.

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Bazán’s time on stage finished with her presentation of one of Ambrosia’s signature dishes, poached salmon with tomato water, watermelon, and herbs.  Her techniques show a literal world’s worth of training, and a keen focus on using locally-sourced ingredients.  You might wait until the middle of the week to go eat, once she (and everyone else) has recovered from a long weekend.

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Jorge Vallejo of Mexico’s Quintonil took to the stage for the start of the final afternoon sessions.  Though he got his start and found his wife and business partner at Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, the chef has already found his own groove at Quintonil, and people are taking note.  The restaurant, he said, is more than just a business–it’s a life’s work.  Once he and his now wife left Pujol to open the restaurant, it became a labor of love, and an homage to all of the forgotten and overlooked products with which Mexico is just teeming.  Quintonil itself is a type of amaranth, a delicious grain that basically grows like a weed, yet is rarely seen on menus.

The highlight of Vallejo’s presentation were his two dishes, one which he just renamed on Friday night.  The first was a ceviche of nopales (cactus paddles), with Chile’s own cochayuyo and its roots, as well as avocado, which he says he eats with every meal.  The second, a dessert, got its new name when a small earthquake hit on Friday night just as he was plating during the Ñam Sessions dinner.  Formerly known as mangoes with chocolate, it will now be referred to as mangoes with chocolate 5.6.  Add avocado, green tea ice cream and chocolate powder to charred mangoes and a thick chocolate nage and you’ve got yourself a dish that does, in fact, border on groundbreaking.

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For a bit of comic relief prior to what would be a rather interesting final act, illustrator Alberto Montt took the stage to talk about the inspiration for his latest bit of work, Recetas al Pie de la Letra, an artist’s take on the sometime literal names for dishes that can be found throughout Latin America.  Think ‘shoe mussels’ or ‘crazies stew’ as exaggerated comics.  Montt has collaborate with chef Tomás Olivera, who was to be the final act for the day, on various projects like live cooking and drawing demonstrations.  Sure, it was a stretch for a culinary festival, but did offer some good laughs and a reminder that we can’t always take food so seriously.

Finally, chef of the people and lover of music, Tomás Olivera took to the stage to close out Ñam 2014.  In what ended up bordering on a Kanye West style talk / performance / rant on stage, the chef did manage to get two dishes out, and give away a prize from Puma, with whom he regularly collaborates.  Amidst the chatter, asking who won the day’s soccer game, talking about politics and his general disdain for all Chilean politicians, the chef cooked and plated charquican with a fried egg and blood sausage with sofrito, zucchini and cherry tomatoes.

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Prior to retiring the stage to the festival’s final musical act for 2014, Olivera gave us two final pieces of information.  The first, that Chilean food is of and by the people, not Rodolfo Guzmán, Liguria, Pebre, Les Toques Blanche, or a variety of other organizations which the chef seems to have had fallings out with prior to his appearance on the stage.  The second, a first look at his new project Musicalización, which brings together his fervent passion for music and cooking into a collaborative project involving music and cooking.  Members of Inti-Illimani and other local bands have gotten together to create songs based on national, traditional Chilean dishes as an homage to the country and its foodways.  Check the first cut here.

After the odd, and politically-charged end to Ñam, the chairs were removed for the last time, the stoves lit up and the music turned on.  Tapas y Vinos closed out Ñam 2014 with a lot of buzzed, happy guests.  Look out later today for our Day After report, chock full of insights and other nuggets of information.

[photo: Lauren Barragan]

Ñam, Day 3

By Patrick Hieger

Day three was all about a return to cooking, and a recovery of the ingredients, techniques, and producers that make each individual country in South America’s cuisine great.  Things kicked off early with none other than Hogs’ Andrés Vallarino, the owner of a hot dog shop that managed to get four of Latin America’s best chefs together to collaborate on signature hot dogs.  The man who also made fresh sausage live on stage.  It was a bit disappointing that more people didn’t show up for the presentation, because it was one of the true cooking demonstrations, and a lesson, from the cooks themselves, that quality doesn’t have to be expensive.

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Vallarino took his time on stage to tout what Hogs has done, and why it’s important.  As “just a hot dog shop,” they could get easily overlooked as being just a place to eat, and not part of a larger thread of bringing higher quality food and ingredients to South America.  As his sous chef chopped, ground, and cased fresh pork shoulder, Villarain and his Food Lab Group partners discussed the importance of quality.  “We don’t want people to confuse quality with luxury,” they said.  Though it was quite a luxury to start the day off with a sample of freshly made, freshly seared and golden sausage.

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El Baqueano’s Fer Rivarola was next, with a hint in his voice that the previous night’s Sessions dinner might have gone a little too long into the early morning.  Nevertheless, he took command of the stage, talking about the importance of rescuing–a word that has gotten a lot of attention during Ñam–Argentina’s and, in general, South America’s native ingredients. His father, he told us, had been a hunter and a fisherman, so he had grown up eating the lesser known, and less desirable cuts of meat and fish, the same types of proteins he now serves in his own restaurant.  He mentioned that Argentina has 4,700 kilometers of coast, as well as an important network of rivers and lakes, yet Argentines barely touch fish.  Multimedia time.

Like many of the other main attractions, he had a host of videos to share with the crowd that was now starting to grow.  The first, and perhaps most important video, was about local fishermen whose trade is slowly becoming extinct, as things like dams and other construction projects threaten the rivers that provide them their catch.  With less to fish and therefore less work, they’re slowly forced into living in larger cities, looking for work, but end up finding poverty.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Rivarola’s point was to show us that what and how we eat doesn’t just affect us–it affects ecosystems, producers, fishermen, the environment, and so on.  What we eat has a great impact on a lot of people.

On a lighter note, the presentation came to a close with a brief discussion of his monthly dinner series, Cocina Sin Fronteras, which brings together chefs from around Latin America (and the world at large), to showcase Argentina’s native ingredients.  Never disappointing, Rivarola’s final video was from last year’s Cocina dinner with Alex Atala, as filmed by The Great Cuisine.  From shopping to prepping to cooking, we got a taste of what the Cocina Sin Fronteras dinners are, and why they’re not to be missed.  Remember that “stupidly simple” potato and cheese dish that Atala was talking about during his presentation?  He prepared that tableside at Cocina.  Make your reservations soon.

Attention quickly shifted over to the Ñam Innova auditorium, where none other than Gastón Acurio took to the stage for one last presentation.  A much smaller stage and a more intimate crowd, Acurio wanted to talk about how food can be a tool, used to create a movement.  “Food tells a story,” he told us.  It is a product, and comes from somewhere, and those are the stories that we need to know, too–not just the story that’s on our plate.  This, as he stood gallantly on the dim, heavily-shadowed stage, gently tossing a fresh ceviche.

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Though he had touched upon it the day before in his larger presentation, the chef’s main point in the smaller setting was to make us aware of how important the fishing industry is to Peru and how, “little by little,” chefs and their restaurants are taking steps to ensure the industry remains strong.  If the more than 25,000 cevicherías in Lima alone can learn to work day to day, with fresh product, they can connect directly with fishermen for the highest quality, most sustainable product available.  “Little by little.”  And then we were met with fresh leche de tigre in the lobby.  Gastón Acurio–chef, poet, provider.

How do you follow up a presentation like that?  With a breezy breath of fresh Brazilian air, talking about simplicity in cooking.  Mocotó’s Rodrigo Oliveira, entirely in Portuguese, spoke volumes about his love for simplicity, as well as the boteco culture that Brazil is known for.  He praised what Andrés Vallarino had done earlier in the day, making fresh sausage on stage, with simple ingredients and a solid focus.  That, he said, is innovation.

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Mocotó is a “popular” restaurant, literally meaning that it’s for the people.  As he cooked “quesadillas” made with tapioca flour that Brazil is famous for, he showed a video of a day in the life of Mocotó.  Regardless of its number 16 spot on the list of Latin America’s 50 Best, it doesn’t seem that business was going too poorly for the chef in the first place.  Then, in a fit of pure Brazilian happiness, the chef tossed free t-shirts into the crowd for five lucky attendees.  Obrigado, chef.

Tired yet?  It was a long day, and two great chefs were still yet to come.

Venezuela’s Carlos Garcia, like many of the other chefs, talked about the importance of memories in his cooking.  He has a horrible memory he says, to the point that he’s forgotten his kids at school.  So, he created a Facebook page to share his culinary memories, and to draw from them in his cooking.  For him, an interchange between chefs (think pictures of him with Massimo Bottura, Enrique Olvera, and so on) is of the utmost importance, and plays a huge role in his dishes at Alto.  And while Alex Atala had said that food was a much more important social network than Facebook, Garcia was trying to say that tools to create memories, be they notebooks or internet-based, are an important key in remembering why we cook.

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Garcia, in his effortlessly cool and easy way, cooked three dishes, inspired by three different memories.  One, a dish involving mole that took him back to spending time with Mexican chef Enrique Olvera.  Another, a truly Venezuelan dish that reminded him of home.  The third, a memory of his week in Chile leading up to Ñam, involving fresh Chilean sea urchin and salt from Cahuil that they had collected earlier in the week.  Absolutely hunger inducing.

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Finally, Chile’s own Axel Manríquez of the Bristol at Hotel Plaza San Francisco closed out the day.  The chef has been cooking for twenty five long years, but got his start watching his mother cook at her “fuente de soda” in Santiago’s Estación Central when he was young.  Just like every other chef that has presented thus far at Ñam, youth, memories, and a constant use of both is key to making food look, taste, and be great.  After all, that is the slogan for this year’s Ñam: what does your childhood taste like?

From there, the space was cleared, the tables set, and the crowds poured in for the tapas and vino party.  Tonight’s the last night to get in on all the action, or you’ll have to wait until next year.  We’ll see you there.

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

Ñam, Day 2

By Patrick Hieger

The second day of Ñam was nothing short of spectacular.  Big, international talent took to the stage in the form of Virgilio Martínez and Gastón Acurio, but Chile came out in force, too, with chefs ranging from Mulato’s Cristian Correa, all the way to Boragó’s Rodolfo Guzmán never failing to disappoint.  Can day 3 compete with a day like that?  It’s hard to tell, but just so we don’t forget, here’s a recap of day 2.

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It was off and running first thing in the morning when Emporio La Rosa’s Teresa Undurraga took to the stage to talk about and cook up traditional Chilean recipes.  Things did move a big slow as she read aloud from her computer, talking about all that Chile has to offer, the benefits of looking towards the past, and celebrating the diverse cultures that Chile has to draw from.  When she finally got to the stove, the morning became quite delicious.  As she put the finishing touches on a pot of tomatican–the sofrito-based tomato stew with ground beef and corn–students from local school Inacap brought small samples of the dish into the crowd to try.  It’s a good thing that Chileans are known for eating hearty dishes, even first thing in the morning.  This could easily become a new breakfast favorite.

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Lastarria’s own Cristian Correa from market-driven Mulato got on stage to talk about tradition, memory, and products, what he considers the foundation for his cuisine.  With traditional Chilean ingredients like cochayuyo (bull kelp), salmon, chupe de mariscos, and summer squash, the chef turned his plate into a canvas of textures, shapes, and colors.  Rosy salmon was dusted in cochayuyo powder, seared hard on both sides, then served very medium rare.  The sides?  A paste of chupe de mariscos rolled into summer squash and then baked, as well as a foam of the same broth used to make the chupe.  Alas, there were no samples, but Mulato is just steps away from Ñam.

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Virgilio Martínez hopped quickly on the stage to pack as much as he could into his shortened presentation.  In a conversation with the chef last year, he said that if chefs keep bringing the same material to every appearance or festival, it can get boring.  Needless to say, nothing that the chef, or Central’s in-house baker Renato Peralta brought to the stage had been seen before.  Naturally, he wanted to plug the newest addition of the Mater Iniciativa menu that’s happening at Central, and at Cusco’s Senzo.  Sprawling video of the 16 different altitudes that you’ll find on the new menus was shown as Martínez and Peralta cooked together.

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Martínez wanted to show how both his plates, as well as the philosophy of Mater Iniciativa, are about ecosystems.  His first dish (again, no sample!) was tomate de arból, avocado, river algae, and dehydrated beets.  It looked as beautiful as it did delicious, and knowing what typically comes out of Central’s kitchen, would have tasted it, too.  He then worked directly with Peralta on four different crackers / breads made from different flours, including maíz morado flour, coca flour, and more.  Each bread was topped with different native ingredients to highlight its simplicity, as well as its ecosystem.  There’s a reason that Apicius’ Javi Antoja, when presenting Virgilio, said that he, along with Mexico’s Jorge Vallejo and Chile’s Rodolfo Guzmán represent the very promising future of Latin Cuisine.  Time to make a reservation at Central.

Colchagua Valley’s Pilar Rodriguez, who never disappoints, once again brought the best of her region.  The Chileans present on day two wanted to make sure that their products were present as well.  Rodriguez brought regional lettuces and their producers to the stage.  Guests in the crowd were given the chance to taste salt from Cahuil harvested earlier in the week.  And the best of Colchagua just kept coming.

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Follow that with even more producers, presented by none other than Rodolfo Guzmán himself.  He started with the question, “When did we lose knowledge of where our food comes from?”  The outspoken supporter of all things Chilean that you probably don’t know exist, Guzmán first presented the founder of Pesca en Línea, Patricio, Chile’s foremost presence in fishing sustainability.  He then brought out a true man of the land, Renato, who owns a biodynamic farm that provides produce and other hard-to-find products directly to Boragó.

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Guzmán only had time enough to cook one dish, and show a couple of videos.  Boragó’s video production is second to none, and although we were introduced to edible parasites, they couldn’t have looked more delicious.  The most captivating video showed the year-long process of how each and every element of the peumo tree, including its parasites, is used to show the growth cycle over the course of a year.  From macerated, charred, roasted and dehydrated fruits, to an ice cream made from the same tree’s pulp, the dish is edible art and nature all in one.  Simply stunning.

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Finally, it was Gastón Acurio’s turn and, as you might expect, everyone got fed.  As did many of the day’s other chefs, Acurio focused on memory and tradition, as well as what the future holds.  His presentation began with a talk about diversity, and how even in Chifa cuisine, which fuses Chinese and Peruvian, slight changes in similar recipes can yield an entirely different dish.  Out came steamed pork buns with zarza criolla from Madam Tusan for the whole crowd.  Needless to say, it was a nice afternoon snack.

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Acurio’s time on stage passed and ended as many of the other chefs’ time did, with lots of videos.  The best by far was the introduction to the new menu, Virú, now being served at Astrid y Gastón Casa Moreyra.  His final message was clear, particularly for young cooks–respect the past, and move ahead into the future.  Keep the child inside alive.  Said like only Gastón Acurio could.

[image: Como Sur]

Snap Vid: Alex Atala In The Kitchen During Ñam Sessions

By Patrick Hieger

What do you do when Alex Atala is cooking in a street-level, open kitchen? Take a video, of course.  The always-friendly chef was already on his way to the oven when he noticed a few loyal fans trying to catch a glimpse of the master at work.  Watch him say hello in this quick video.

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

Video: Virgilio Martínez Makes His Signature Hot Dog

By Patrick Hieger

It was sweater off, apron on, and full concentration for Virgilio Martínez in the Hogs kitchen yesterday as he put together his signature creation.  Not even a faulty squeeze bottle top or a gigantic video camera could stop the Michelin-starred chef from making sure every last detail of the sausage was just right.  Note the moment of contemplation at the end of the video.  He didn’t add anything else.  Get yours now through Sunday.

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

Five Chefs Making Signature Hot Dogs At Hogs

By Patrick Hieger

As Ñam officially opened to the public yesterday, Lastarria, where the festival will now take place for the foreseeable future, also took advantage of the celebration.  Restaurants around the neighborhood are decorated with blue and white ribbons, as well as a small Ñam flag to denote that they’re taking part in the festival, offering either a special menu, a discount, or both.  Hogs owner Andrés Vallarino decided to take things one step further and invited four noted Latin American chefs to create a signature dog to be sold throughout Ñam.  After Alex Atala’s opening presentation yesterday, Virgilio Martínez, Narda Lepes, Harry Sasson, and Jorge Vallejo headed up to the sausage shop to officially launch the menu.  And then Jordi Roca showed up, too.

[photo: Patrick HIeger]

[photo: Patrick HIeger]

The kitchen’s size wasn’t an issue for each of the chefs who are used to much larger surroundings.  Each (literally) rolled up their sleeves, put on a Hogs apron, and jumped into the kitchen to make sure their signature creation was perfect.  As a surprise guest, Jordi Roca showed up to make his own dog, er, lunch.  At one point, chefs from two of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, three of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, four combined Michelin stars, and a good deal of other accolades were in a tiny kitchen equipped with a griddle, a bun steamer, and a cold well–to make hot dogs.

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

The results?  Fantastic.  Jorge Vallejo’s homage to Mexico was brimming with textures, from the shrimp mayo to the guacamole.  Virgilio Martínez’s, which guests described as the most esoteric, brought complex flavor with shaved beets, goat cheese and onion ash mayo, as well as pickled daikon radish.  Andres, Hogs’ owner, brought the slop with a dog oozing melted cheese, caramelized onions, and country-style chorizo.  Narda Lepes’ dog, described as the healthy option, included crispy black quinoa and avocado.  Harry Sasson, in his quiet way, kept things simple with spicy mango and a cilantro mayonnaise.

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

Given that there aren’t food stands at Ñam itself, the signature dogs at Hogs are a solid lunch option.  Prices don’t drift too far from the normal Hogs dogs, which is a treat given the quality of ingredients and care put into each of the signature creations.  The five dogs will be available through Sunday, exclusively at the Lastarria location of Hogs, located at Merced 297.  Don’t expect the TV crews, the fan fare, and the chefs to be in the kitchen, though.  That was a one-time-only deal.

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]

[photo: Patrick Hieger]