Chef of the Month: Ernesto Moreno, Executive Chef at Pinterest
We are very excited this month to feature Chef Ernesto Moreno, Executive Chef at Pinterest.
We’re huge fans of Pinterest, which is the top social media platform for food websites (yes, bigger than Facebook), love Peruvian food, and admire innovative chefs. Chef Ernesto Moreno ticks all the boxes.
What inspired you to become a Chef?
I was playing professional tennis and as a young athlete I was never home. I missed the flavors of my mom’s cooking, the times we sat down at the table to just celebrate a meal.
During my career as a tennis player I was given the opportunity to have a small cooking segment on Peruvian TV. I was fascinated by what I was learning about food and how it has such a positive impact in people’s lives.
When I think about what food is, I think of happiness, friends, family, gatherings, great memories and stories and that is what I try to do every day as a Chef.
Where did you train to cook? Would you recommend formal training for someone who wants to become a chef, for ex. culinary school?
I trained at Le Cordon Bleu and I absolutely loved having the opportunity to go to school and learn many techniques and skills.
I did my AA and BA degrees there while at the same time I was already working in the industry. It was 5 am school all the way to 7 or 8 pm work.
School allowed me to trust myself more in the kitchen and to fall in love with what I do. It opens your eyes to the beauty of our industry and the many aspects and areas that it has from baking to catering. There is so much that you can do, but it is all on you to make it happen – a school won’t do it for you.
I think that culinary schools are great and fantastic places where one can learn. However, not everyone has the opportunity to go to one. Schools are getting more and more expensive. I believe that if you have a passion for cooking, you can develop yourself into an amazing chef. Yes, you can educate yourself by reading, investigating techniques, new trends, new restaurants and ideas. You must be involved in the world of cooking.
Tell us a bit about working at Pinterest. We are a huge fan of the platform and would love to hear more about your work there?
Pinterest is an amazing corporate dining setting. We feed over 1,350 people daily just in the San Francisco offices alone.
The most important thing that I love about working there is the teams that we have. I couldn’t do it without them – they all have so much passion and dedication to their job: front of house that always making sure that everyone has what they need to enjoy their meal, the cooks that get together and exchange ideas and get motivated to be better, and our dishwashers who do an amazing job every single day.
For me it has allowed me to showcase my diversity as a chef, not only Peruvian food but to showcase everything I’ve learned and built since I was a young culinarian up to now. I also provide content for the app, which means building videos and recipes for pins, which are what makes a tech-chef, and it’s been a great journey.
What are the most popular cuisines and dishes at Pinterest?
The most popular cuisines are Chinese, Latin (from Peruvian to Mexican), and Indian. When it comes to dishes, I think that people get very excited when I make small individual bites. At times, if our daily menu is “Mediterranean,” I would make small individual dishes that showcase that cuisine but also have a twist.
Do you have a signature dish or a favorite dish that you enjoy cooking?
My favorite dish is Lomo Saltado, delicious Peruvian beef stir fry. I just think that Peruvian food is so flavorful, colorful, and has well balanced textures that can adapt to any other cuisine, and that’s how I make menus that are modern and fusion.
You were the Executive Chef at Neiman Marcus Café. How was that experience different from working at Pinterest?
I think that bing the Executive Chef for Neiman Marcus taught me a lot and I was able to showcase a lot of my food for Restaurant Week in Los Angeles. However I think the main difference is just corporate dinning vs restaurant.
At Pinterest I do have pressure but it is a different type of pressure that I put on myself and my teams that I wouldn’t in a restaurant.
Do you follow food trends? If so, what is the top trend for 2020 in your opinion?
For the longest time I followed molecular gastronomy, which I would offer at Neiman Marcus during restaurant week, but I think now I focus a lot on taste not wasteful trends.
I believe that as a chef, we MUST take care of each and every ingredient.
Right now we have thousands of people without any food on their table while some restaurants are throwing away food that could become a delicious meal for someone who can’t afford to eat. It is the awareness that I share with my teams of making sure we utilize everything and utilize what we have in-house first.
It’s important to create that awareness with your teams and make sure they understand what waste means, not only financially but also the impact in the world
Do you regularly read cookbooks? Any new cookbook you would recommend.
I highly recommend the book Lima. by Chef Virgilio Martinez, He showcases the delicious ingredients that we have in Peru and how climate can affect the taste, environment an texture of each ingredient.
Tell us a bit about Peruvian cuisine? What makes it special and what are the top Peruvian dishes we absolutely need to try?
Peruvian cuisine is amazing!
It has won best cuisine in the world for many consecutive years, but what makes it special you might ask? The combination of flavors and ingredients.
Peru is rich! When we talk about our jungle, our Ande, and the coast. The diversity of regions allows Peruvian cuisine to showcase amazing seafood dishes not only ceviche, but pescado a la chorrillana, papa rellena, roasted cuy, chifa, and many more.
The land of Peru is blessed to produce amazing ingredients that combines with flavors, ingredients, culture and climate to make a world famous cuisine. Some of the dishes you must try are ceviche, leche de tigre, papa a la huancaina, Chifa, and anticuchos, which is more of a street food but is so delicious.
Peru is famous for its huge variety of potatoes. What types of potatoes have you tried out and which were the most delicious?
This is one of my favorite topics because Peru produces 80% of the world’s potatoes, has approximately 3800 plus types of potatoes, and this really allows you to see the beauty of our land and the diversity of climates and how ingredients are grown.
I have tried purple potatoes, yellow peruanita potatoes which are so creamy and perfect for French fries, papa chancan, which is a red potato, papa chuño, which is delicious for stuffed potatoes. I absolutely love the colors and variety of potatoes that Peru has, but my favorite is papa morada (purple potato). Texture, color and flavor provides a plus on any dish you make with it.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a top chef?
The most sincere advice I can give is to be true to yourself. Don’t let your ego be your worst enemy; remember where you started and where you want to be. Always be humble but hungry to be better, not for anyone else but for yourself as a professional chef.
Inspire and motivate people to want to work with you not for you, learn and build more knowledge, travel and eat things you never imagined. But most important, respect the ingredients, be creative and have passion, and, as a final touch, believe in yourself first and the rest will be a story.