Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, chef Andrea Martínez started honing her skills in the kitchen of Pangea, ranked 14 in San Pellegrino’s Latin America 50 Best under chef Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain. She graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in 2006 and has worked in New York and Washington D.C. under chef Richard Sandoval.
Through her 18 years in professional kitchens, she has been part of numerous festivals and events in Mexico as well as the U.S., representing north-eastern Mexican cuisine. She has been named one of Mexico’s best young chefs by Entrepreneur Magazine and Almanaque de la Cocina Mexicana.
A Top Chef Mexico participant in the show’s first season, she competed alongside Mexico’s best chefs of her generation. She has also taught at Culinaria Pangea and has helmed the kitchens of some of the best restaurants in Monterrey. In 2015, she opened her first restaurant, Comuna, in partnership with Rivero González, a north-eastern Mexican winery based in Parras, Coahuila, with a branch in Long Island, New York.
Her most recent project, Casa Liebre, is a website, online store, and social media platform where she shares her recipes, artisanal gourmet products, and cooking tips with people all over the world. LLM – Luxury Lifestyle Magazine writer Jyoti Balani caught up with Andrea to discuss her delight at connect with people throughout the world through her cooking, and she treats us to a recipe of her own.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
I have always been a winter person so root vegetables and hearty stews and slow-cooked braises have always been my favourite to cook. But changing seasons always inspire me. Going from winter to spring produce is my favourite too.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
I would like to be an actress, a tennis player, and a detective.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
Now that I’m sharing my recipes on social media I feel a lot freer to cook my whims. Not worrying about having the dishes to be stars on a menu is liberating. But I have always cooked for others and I am definitely still trying to make popular dishes to share. I believe in ‘the more the merrier’, and that is my goal now, to connect with people from all over the world through my recipes.
What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend currently?
I think there are so many trends at a time that I have trouble keeping tabs on these trends. I have noticed a rise in popularity of ‘instant’ cooking gadgets. I think these gadgets simplify meal prep for people with tight schedules and at the same time allow them to cook real, non-fast food.
When are you happiest?
When I am in good company.
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
Dining with friends. Going out to a restaurant is my favourite activity. Hiking is also what I do often now that we have been locked down for so long. I am taking acting lessons as a hobby.
Where is your favourite place to dine?
Somewhere I haven’t dined before.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
Tacos al pastor! Forever. As comfort food, never takeout. Corn tortillas suffer terribly.
What makes the local food scene so exciting?
All the transformations local restaurants have made during this pandemic have made the city feel very fresh and new. Amazing projects have emerged on the takeout front helmed by the best restaurants in town. So great quality fast food is now a big thing.
Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?
I am always proudest of the last dish I cooked.
You’re having friends over for dinner tonight. What’s on the table?
I love opening my refrigerator and making something out of what’s there. It’s like a fun challenge and that way I reduce waste and try new combinations I hadn’t thought of. Also it gives an extra home-made feeling that my friends enjoy.
Name your favourite city that has it all: food, culture, and nightlife.
Mexico City and New York City.
Can you tell us more about your food and the cuisine you specialise in?
Now that Casa Liebre has transformed into a digital platform where I share recipes and the techniques I’ve learned throughout my career, I don’t limit myself to a certain cuisine but my dishes always have a Mexican influence. I am in Monterrey, a north-eastern city in Mexico, so even if I’m making pasta, my version of it will somehow incorporate an ingredient or a technique from here.
I can see that there are more people from all over the world tuning into my social media or our website now, so I try to make some recipes with ingredients almost everyone can have in their country. One of our short-term goals is to be able to ship our products all over the world as well as making videos in English so we can reach more people.
Andrea’s recipe of roasted beet and grapefruit salad
2 large beets
1 bunch fresh thyme
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 tsp. sea salt
For the vinaigrette
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Wrap the beets in aluminium foil and bake them until they are done, approximately 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the aluminium so they can cool. Remove the skin with your hands when they are at a manageable temperature. Slice and set aside.
2. Slice the grapefruit in the same thickness as the beets, and cut the rinds with a knife. Discard the seeds using a toothpick.
3. For the vinaigrette, place the Dijon mustard, honey, soy, rice vinegar, and pepper in a bowl. Whisk the ingredients together. Add the olive oil in a light stream while whisking, to emulsify the vinaigrette. Season with salt to taste.
4. Place the beet and grapefruit slices on a plate. Drizzle them with vinaigrette. Finish the dish with fresh thyme leaves, sea salt, and the toasted sunflower seeds.