The head of grills at newly launched Argentine steakhouse Gaucho Fernando Larroude, a native of Patagonia, tells us of his love of great eats,
Tell us about your journey from Argentina to Hong Kong:
I love Argentina. I was born there and lived there, and spent thirteen years in Buenos Aires. I then ventured around Europe, mainly in Madrid, before finally settling in London. I had heard of Fernando Trocca but not of Gaucho. Fernando is very famous! Though personally, I knew little about the worldwide brand of Gaucho. I came to London because I wanted to work with him. I live in London now, but am in Hong Kong to train the chefs and develop the culture here in Hong Kong so it is just like the English one.
So you went straight into cooking for Fernando Trocca?
No, no, I started at the bottom and worked my way up because I really had to improve my English. I spoke little to no English at the beginning. Actually a funny anecdote: when I first started I was training with another chef, and he was asking me to do something, but I just had no idea what he wanted. I thought it was a complex task, and he kept pointing all around the kitchen. We had a language divide and so I just couldn’t grasp what he required. Eventually he ended up gathering potatoes, butter and milk and proceeded to make mashed potato. Mashed potato! Of course I know how to make mashed potato, and I was so embarrassed he had to make mashed potato to show me how to do it. It was challenges like this that I worked through when I first began with Gaucho.
Would it have been easier to go back to Argentina and work as a chef there?
It might have been, but even though I came to work with the chef, I now know how much love Gaucho has for Argentina, and so I am committed to seeing their vision through. I want to be a cultural food ambassador, as I was trained in Gaucho and now train for Gaucho. All our chefs come through the academy, and I look after the training and education of grilling. It’s great to be a part of this company. Gaucho is about Argentina; it’s all about Argentina.
Do you look for anything specific in the type of people you recruit?
Rarely will someone be hired to go straight on to the grill. We like most of our chefs to come from the academy and through Gaucho internally. I know because I educate them! This way we have an ensured standard, and the chefs know the ethos behind the company they work for.
How does Gaucho compare to other steakhouses?
Lots of emphasis on the beef production, hand picking the cattle when they’re ready for slaughter, selected farmers and individual suppliers and they check every single cut. It is the finest in all of Argentina. Even compared to Argentinian beef.
Would you say the beef is better than that you would find in South American then?
Put it this way, when my family come to eat in Gaucho restaurants, they always are amazed by the quality and taste of the steak. And they know beef! Because Gaucho is such a worldwide brand, they make sure they have the best from the best farmers, and it shows.
Is this what has made the Gaucho brand so popular?
There is such a strong Argentine spirit in Gaucho. That’s why I love working here. They really want to draw all the attention back to my country. And you’ll see it from the wine we serve to the flavours in the starters, to the staff we hire, a large portion of front and back of house are from South America. And because I am a proud Argentinian, I am very glad to say that Gaucho does this nation very proud.