Chef Tracy leads a talented team of kitchen staff who work together to create pan-Latin cuisine for hundreds of guests a day. To see the posted video, click here. For the full interview, Q&A below!
Q: Could you start off by introducing yourself and sharing a bit about your culinary journey? And what do you love about cooking seafood in particular?
A: I’m Chef Tracy and I work for Richard Sandoval and SAGE hospitality right now, I’m the current CDC for Toro Kitchen & Lounge in Cherry Creek. I’ve been here for almost 4 years, and worked my way up from a line cook to CDC. My culinary journey started when I was very young, I loved cooking with my family and my dad is an amazing cook. He lives in Florida, so that’s where I get my seafood inspiration from. I grew up cooking, smoking, grilling, deep-frying, and boiling all types of seafood in my backyard. I’ve spent a good majority of my career in meat and seafood, so processing meat and seafood, and learning how to deal with all those different cuts and types of animals.
Q: What’s a seafood dish you’re currently working on or have perfected? What unique elements or flavors does it have?
A: That’s an interesting question. This job consists of a lot of keeping the consistency. This recipe is not my recipe, this is Richard Sandoval’s recipe. I absolutely love what he does with his dishes, so for me to uphold that consistency, is a talent in itself.
Q: Many chefs draw inspiration from sources like travel, culture, or personal experiences. What inspires your seafood creations?
A: For someone who is wanting to marinate fish, garlic oil is your best friend. I found this out on a whim a few years ago when a dish needed something. Take garlic cloves, put them in oil, cook it down, and blend it all together and use it as your base in a marinade – it’s going to be amazing. When you have the garlic mixed into the oil, it becomes a whole new ingredient for you.
Q: Any culinary influences?
A: My biggest culinary influence is Richard Sandoval and Oscar Padilla. Oscar Padilla used to be the CDC here, and is an incredible chef who does a lot of wood to fire grilling. You have to find a confidence when you are grilling seafood because it’s going to fall apart, its very delicate. I learned how to be more confident with seafood on the grill from Oscar Padilla.
Q: Your journey can be an inspiration to many aspiring chefs. What advice do you have for people who are starting out, especially those interested in seafood cuisine?
A: Get your hands dirty. Get in there, no matter how nervous you are or if you feel like you don’t have the right experience or knowledge to get the job – you probably do, you probably know more than you think you do. Look for leaders, people you can look up to, and people who inspire you and ask them for advice, where to go, see if you can work for those people… every time a door has closed, two doors have opened. You just have to have a positive attitude, and keep looking for those doors. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, you can learn very quickly. If that’s where your passion is, you just have to go in and try.
Q: Do you have any other advice for inspiring women chefs?
A: There are opportunities all over Denver. I actually did this program – Work Options for women – they help you sign up for cooking classes and certifications to “boost your resume.” In this six month course, everything was free and provided by Denver County. It was the best experience and the people are so caring and loving. That’s just one program in Denver, but I know there’s many out there for people who don’t have money for school or can’t spend additional money on their career.
Thank you Chef Tracy!