Te Quiero Mucho is a new Mexican eatery recognisable by its large terrace and picture-perfect setting inside boutique hotel Mojo Nomad. This authentic Mexican dining experience crafted by Guadalajara native chef Jose Alfonso Rodriguez has sparked attention in the heart of Sheung Wan with its sensational bites.
We chatted to Chef Alfonso, who has just won his seventh cooking contest, about his culinary journey and how he redefines a hotel restaurant.
Can you tell us about how you started as a chef and the competitions you’ve won?
I started working in the kitchen at 13 years old, and now I’m almost 30. I have been working around Mexico, Miami, Orlando, Spain and here in Hong Kong for around eight months. Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed taking part in cooking competitions, which help to improve my craft and connect with other culinary talents. Like last year, I was part of the San Pellegrino Young Chef competition in New York, and another one in Hong Kong, where we got to prepare dishes with star judges from various well-known fine-dining restaurants in town. It was a really interesting experience.
Contrary to regular hotel restaurants, Te Quiero Mucho serves all-day sharing-style dishes. Why is it important to accentuate this idea?
I think sharing, to me, is to create interaction between people at the table. It’s not the same when you order your own taco and I order mine. Sharing-style dishes encourage people to have something in the middle to try together, to exchange opinions and just to socialise.
It’s interesting that you have included a cricket taco on the menu – do you see people becoming less conservative regarding this sort of delicacy or are you trying to challenge their boundaries?
Not really! I understand that Hong Kong people are very open-minded and have seen a lot of unconventional stuff, like beef tongue, which although in Mexican standards is not too crazy, it does prove that the locals are used to trying atypical food. So I am also intrigued to see what people say about this dish. But I don’t think they are too scared about it.
And how do you prepare this dish?
Staying true to what you will actually find in Mexico, we mix some beans and guacamole and put crickets on top of the taco, so it’s like the complement of the dish, not the main part of it.
One can’t walk out of a Mexican restaurant without having a glass or two, so what is your favourite cocktail-snack combo at Te Quiero Mucho?
My personal choice is a taco and beer – simple and good, like what we do back in Mexico. For guests in general, I would recommend a margarita for the ladies and beer for the males.
Where do you source your ingredients to keep the authentic flavours here in Hong Kong?
We focus on Mexican street food, but I also need to check what I have around to develop the menu. For example, the beef here is easy to find – it’s good quality and reliable – so I include beef tongue tacos on the menu. We also try to keep a balanced diet by serving tortillas, since Mexican dishes are mostly meat and seafood based. Corn is a major part of our diet too – as you know, we have different varieties. In the future, we are trying to bring this kind of corn to Hong Kong and make tortillas from scratch. Right now, we are using the ready-made ones imported from Mexico. They are exceptional and served exclusively here.
How important is food presentation to you in relation to camera-friendliness for potential exposure on social media?
I used to do a lot of creative dishes in other kinds of cuisine with very nice presentation, so when they talked about the concept, I immediately thought of doing Mexican street food but with refined plating. Like this dessert, for example – it is a dessert my grandma used to give me for dinner. Just sometimes, not every day, maybe once a month. Although of course she didn’t present it like the version I am creating here, which is very camera friendly, keeping it interesting to the eye as much as to the palate. I think presentation is important in any kind of business wherever you are in the world nowadays, and social media is a good tool to spread your voice.
What’s your next move?
Oh, I can’t say much at the moment, but I have something big and exciting coming up in May. Perhaps it will shake the industry too. But I really can’t talk too much about it now. I am so looking forward to it.
Chef Alfonso left us feeling thrilled about this upcoming project of his. Stay tuned to Dishtag for the unveiling of his next move! Meanwhile, check out Te Quiero Mucho’s full menus for some kick-ass Mexican flavours to enjoy with your friends, from breakfast to late dinner.
G/F and 1/F, Mojo Nomad, 286 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, 3423 3290