Daniela Soto-Innes, Chef de Cuisine at Cosme
In the Flatiron District, Cosme offers up creative dishes that put a contemporary twist on Mexican-inspired cuisine, such as duck carnitas or tuna tostatas served with a chilled Expat Martini. Daniela Soto-Innes is a rising star in New York’s restaurant scene, having been named as Cosme’s Chef de Cuisine in 2014, at the tender age of 23.
I come from a long line of women who cook. My great-grandmother went to cooking school in Europe and my grandma managed a bakery in Mexico City. My mother was a lawyer, but she did cooking classes and would take me with her.
We moved to Houston from Mexico when I was 12. I took a culinary course at high school and got my first job in a Marriott hotel. I did an apprenticeship at Mark’s American Restaurant in Houston, before working my way through every single station in the kitchen at Brennan’s – I was pretty much the chef’s pet! I got my first chef’s job when I was 20 at Triniti restaurant, where I realised that I knew how to cook, but was not ready to delegate. So I spent a few years getting more experience and learning from mentors such as well-known chefs Chris Shepherd and Enrique Olvera.
Getting the Chef de Cuisine job at Cosme was insane. I was shocked, but knew I was ready for anything. We started with three cooks and no dishwashers – I was doing everything! – but now we’re doing better and we have 25 cooks and eight dishwashers. We’re also opening a second restaurant in SoHo soon, which is exciting.
At Cosme, we like to cook healthy food. It’s quite acidic, so I balance it with a little bit of fat, such as coconut oil or avocado, and then add spice with chillies. Travelling is a big inspiration for new recipes, as well as markets – I look for whatever is available and tasty.
I don’t have a signature dish, but there is something that I really make with my heart – our husk meringue with corn mousse. It’s influenced by my childhood. My father used to forget to pick me and my sisters up from school, so to compensate for the fact that he was late AGAIN, he would bring us these gooey corn-husk meringues. Every time I eat one, it’s like a bite of happiness.
Amanda Cohen, Chef and Owner at Dirt Candy
Located on New York’s Lower East Side, Dirt Candy is an award-winning restaurant specialising in vegetable-based cuisine. Canadian-born founder and chef Amanda Cohen is the culinary mastermind behind Dirt Candy’s innovative dishes, which include Korean fried broccoli, Portobello mousse and Brussels sprout tacos.
Cooking was a job that turned into a life. After taking a four-month course at the Natural Gourmet Institute, I spent 10 years working in every restaurant that would take me in New York City. I opened Dirt Candy when I realised that the kind of cooking I wanted to do was too unusual for any kitchen to believe in it, except my own.
I cook vegetables, which means I have a huge bounty of fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, nuts and cheeses to play with. For too long, vegetarian food in America has been about saying “no” to meat, but I like to think of it as saying “yes” to vegetables. Dirt Candy is not about denial. It’s about fun.
I find inspiration for new dishes everywhere. I eat out all the time, try out restaurants, read cookbooks obsessively, travel – my entire life fuels the food at Dirt Candy. Part of the mandate here is that we’re always experimenting with vegetables, changing the menu and coming up with dishes. At any one time, we have three or four projects running to see if some idea, new technique or ingredient yields something worth pursuing.
The women who taught me how to work, on whose shoulders I’m standing, are largely invisible. But Glory Mongin, who I worked with in an early job and now runs Paradiso in Cork, Ireland, has shaped me more than any brand-name chef I know.
Every night, Dirt Candy is full of people having a party, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, bat mitzvahs and engagements. They come here because they want something new and different –they’re willing to go on this journey with Dirt Candy where sometimes something doesn’t work, where perfection is not on the menu, but we always wind up doing something you won’t find anywhere else in the city.