Upon seeing the swirl of kitchen gadgets in the Cuisine Solutions kitchen, Chef Carlos Amaya knew he wanted to work in that space to fuse his passion for simple ingredients with scientific precision.
“I was pretty blown away because it looked kind of like a lab,” Amaya says. “It had all these pieces of equipment circling in the water—for me, it’s pretty exciting to see how science and food are related.”
That fusion is what Amaya loves about sous-vide—that, and how seafood, which he enjoyed often as a child in coastal El Salvador eating his Spanish grandmother’s cooking, is especially delicious under vacuum.
“When it comes to mussels and clams, those are the best to do sous-vide because [the process] retains all the juices that come from them,” he says. “Octopus gets a pretty incredible tenderness, and you keep all the flavors you would lose in non-sous-vide cooking.”
Memories of eating his grandmother’s creamy seafood stew and her paprika and guajillo pepper-rubbed octopus are still with Amaya today in the Cuisine Solutions kitchen.
Find the recipe HERE.
“I discovered my passion by watching my grandma do her daily cooking,” Amaya says. “She was pretty passionate about things we would make.”
Living with his grandma’s relatives in Spain for almost two years instilled the love of cooking she ignited. Amaya had his first kitchen job then at a restaurant in Malága, and today he learns from chefs Joan, Josep, and Jordi Roca of Michelin three-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Girona.
“They’re doing cryoconcentration, which is something we also do at CREA (Cuisine Solutions’ culinary research and education academy)—it’s a newer technique where you separate the liquids from the solids [to extract flavor],” he says of the Roca brothers. “They keep blowing my mind, and they share the techniques for new things on their menu [on Instagram].”
Sharing knowledge, as the Roca brothers do, is something Amaya strongly believes in. Transparency about ingredients used in recipes keeps unwitting diners from suffering allergic reactions, and sharing information on techniques creates a collaborative ecosystem for chefs.
“It’s part of professionalism—you become a mentor to someone else by sharing [your technique],” Amaya says. “Cooking is all about coming up with the next spectacular idea.”
Amaya looks for that next spectacular idea in his home kitchen, too, by buying new things at the grocery store and experimenting. If he doesn’t hit the mark, he has a contingency plan.
“I put things together and see how they come out. If they didn’t turn out good, I still have pita bread and hummus,” he says.