Chef Rodriguez’s Innovative Culinary Concept
Culture For one chef, a trip to Cuba became more than a culinary turning point. He shared with Mediaplanet what keeps him coming back — with hungry food lovers in tow.
Gloria’s Black Beans
Just try to resist Chef Douglas Rodriguez’s recipe for glorious, authentically Cuban black beans.
1 pound dried black beans
3 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 cup extra virgin oil
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 onions chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 red onions
2 tbsp salt
1 red onion, diced for garnish
8 ounces sour cream for garnish (optional)
1. Steady simmer
Place the beans in nonreactive pan. Cover with 3 quarts of water, add bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer the beans for 2 ½ to 3 hours, stirring frequently and adding more water if necessary to keep them well covered.
2. Steamy sauté
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan or skillet. Sauté the bell peppers, shallots and onions over medium heat until onions are translucent. About 15 minutes.
3. Spice it up
Add the garlic, cumin, dried and fresh oregano, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
4. Serve and garnish
When the beans are almost tender, add the pureed mixture, sugar and salt to the beans, and cook until just tender—20 to 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, garnish the red onions and sour cream and serve.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Douglas Rodriguez is a self-proclaimed food obsessive. Having won numerous awards, including the famous and prestigious James Beard Award for excellence in cuisine, his obsession appears to be paying off.
The hot hand
A co-owner, along with restaurateur Stephen Starr, of Alma de Cuba, in Philadelphia, Rodriguez is considered the father of Nuevo Latino cuisine. And he tries to share his love of food with others every chance he gets. In addition to the many accolades, Rodriguez has been featured in national magazines and television shows. He’s also authored four books.
But a high point for the chef was when his team at Alma de Cuba competed in COCHON555, a national fine-dining tour aimed at promoting the sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs, with some of the best chefs in Philadelphia.
Rodriguez’s love for food and cooking started at a young age. He cites Julia Child as a major influence in forging his life’s path.
“I often watched her PBS program on Saturday mornings,” he recalls. “She was certainly a big influence at a time when I was perhaps most impressionable, and I point to her often as helping me become truly passionate about cooking.”
Staying in touch
Most recently, Rodriguez has begun hosting culinary tours with his wife throughout Cuba that include discussions with local artists and chefs, walking tours and visits to attractions throughout the city.
“My first visit to Cuba was in 2013, for the Havana Biennial Art Exhibition,” he says. “I became so fascinated. I returned home wanting to hold onto that magic I felt there—sad to not have had more time. I hope with the tours that we make a difference in the travelers’ lives, bringing them the experience—the magic—I felt on that first, and every, trip.”
Rodriguez’s tours are part of the “People to People” exchange, a federal government licensing incentive to encourage interaction and education between cultures. “Because our tours are part of this program, every traveler has the opportunity to interact with the locals and culture of Cuba in the most meaningful way,” says Rodriguez. “I work to make each trip different and truly unique.”
The next tour, called “Havana, Viñales and Matanzas: A Tale of 3 Cities,” will take place from March 10 to 17, with a limited number of spots still available. Anyone interested in an upcoming culinary tour can visit the Chef Douglas Rodriguez website for more details.