As he continues to champion the culture and cuisine of his homeland, Chef Carlos Gaytán and the team at River North’s esteemed Tzuco (720 N. State St.) are pleased to announce Back to My Roots – a year-long journey discovering culinary traditions of a new state in México each month. From Michoacán and Monterrey to Oaxaca and Yucatán, guests are invited to unearth the bounty contained within all nine regions of the country.
Tzuco’s monthly Back to My Roots menu features specially created menu items inspired by the ingredients and gastronomy of each region. Menus are designed by an artist representing each territory, infusing visual impact and another layer of storytelling each month. In addition to the monthly menu selections, Chef Gaytán also invites leading chefs from México to join him in the Tzuco kitchen at points throughout the year for special evenings of adventure and collaboration.
In March, the series hits a particularly special note, as Gaytán turns to his native state of Guerrero, located in Southwestern México. His hometown, Huitzuco (translating to “land of abundant thorns” and after which Tzuco is named), is one of the most populated towns in the municipality. Like most other areas of the state, Huitzuco is mountainous and rugged, with flat areas limited to mesas and the Pacific coastline. With history dating back to the 15th century – and with more than 1700 documented archeological sites – Guerrero today is home to several indigenous groups, some of which include Mixtecs, Nahuas, Amuzgos and Tlapanecos.
Guerrero is rife with mountains, caves and wild areas. These comprise many of Carlos’ earliest memories a boy. He describes days-long hiking and camping trips with his family, where together, they would hunt, forage and live from the land. Fishing in Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Acapulco and other coastal cities – where sports fishing remains popular today – was always an adventure, and would yield catches suited for grilling, roasting, raw preparations and more.
Available March 1-30, Chef Gaytán’s Guerrero menu items call upon the land and that of his own life’s journey. Menu highlights include:
- Tortitas de Camarón: Shrimp and lemongrass cake, tomato and guajillo salsa, rice chicharron and cactus relish.
- Quail: Stuffed quail with homemade chorizo, dates, and pickled jalapenos, egg wash huazontles, tomato and roasted red pepper sauce and greens
- Pescado en Mole Verde: Seabass filet, Nejo tamale, creamy zucchini, mole verde, and pickled red onion
Woodwork, pottery, palm front weaving and textiles are predominant artistic expressions in Guerrero, but perhaps none is more prevalent than painting using traditional amate, or bark paper, as canvas. Tzuco’s March menu design was inspired by this direction, as well as the area’s natural elements, and brought to life by Guerrerense artist Asher Miranda.
“This series and the Guerrero menu are very special to me,” said Chef Gaytán. “When I think about my youth, our family’s journey was not always easy, but my happiest memories are the times hiking, foraging, fishing and hunting together and cooking what we caught. My mother, Doña Tete, could make anything. I learned early in life deep gratitude for the abundance of the earth and its ability to keep us nourished. To recreate some of these dishes in my own way at Tzuco – it’s a way of honoring where I come from while also celebrating how far I have come.”
Featured Image: Tzuco