If you’re a regular at Costa Pacifica, you are probably very familiar with our delicious food, but how well do you know the face behind your favorite dishes? Hint: The man is from Mexico. That’s right! Our Mexican food is as authentic and traditional as it gets. Keep on reading to learn all about Chef Chuy from Costa Pacifica.
Chef Chuy’s journey to the restaurant industry
Chuy is originally from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He landed his first job at just 15 years old working in produce. He knew how to mix and blend various fruits to make fresh juices and smoothies. After this venture, he started making his way into the restaurant business.
Chuy started out as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, while he was going to college and studying architecture. He quickly started to work his way up the ladder. After 4 months as a dishwasher, they put him in the kitchen as a line cook. Then, he spent one year working as Sous Chef. When he was just 17 years old, he finally got promoted to Head Chef! Soon after, the Mexican government paid for Chuy to attend two years of cooking school to become an official chef.
When he was just 18, he was invited to be one of the youngest chefs to compete in a cook-off at the World Trade Center in Mexico. However, he didn’t win, but he gained great recognition! Today, he has competed in large cooking competitions with some of the top chefs across the world. Paul Bocuse was one of the largest mentors at the San Antonio culinary school (Culinary Institute of America), and Chuy would often be invited to compete at the international culinary competition of the Bocuse d'Or (Golden Bocuse) in Mexico. Unfortunately, Bocuse recently passed away this January.
Now, let’s get back on track… When Chuy was 19 years old, he was given the opportunity to move to Guadalajara and work as Head Chef at the owner’s other restaurant. He was also invited to many other cities to work as a chef and traveled to Tijuana, Los Cabos, Mexico City, and more!
When Chuy lived in Mexico City, he decided to attend one of the top culinary institutes, Ambrosia, but he eventually dropped out to pursue architecture once again. He went back to college to study architecture, but he didn’t last long. Once a month, the school would require him to stay all weekend long for a large project and would not allow him to leave campus. Chuy was still working as a Head Chef and had too many responsibilities to focus on school. Chuy would get called to come into work in the middle of class because the restaurant was overwhelmed and needed his help.
When Chuy was 21 years old, he returned to Mazatlán and got involved in several other cooking ventures. He started teaching culinary classes at Tecnológico de Monterrey – Mazatlán and became a judge for food competitions.
What brought him to America?
Chuy moved to Monterey when he was 24, continued teaching, and continued cooking for two other restaurants. One of the restaurants he worked for eventually brought him to Texas. The owner of the restaurant, Tommy, was Moris Saide's uncle! Moris and Tommy partnered together to create Costa Pacifica, Mexican-Style Seafood in San Antonio, TX. They wanted Chuy as their Executive Chef, and it took off from there! Chuy creates all the recipes and food presentations that guests experience. Now, Chuy has been living and working in San Antonio at Costa Pacifica for about 8 years.
How and when did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
Chef Chuy started cooking at home when he was 14 years old, but he never dreamed of becoming a chef. The opportunities came to him, and he fell in love with it! He dropped out of architecture school because he knew his future was going to be in the kitchen.
Have you always specialized in Seafood or Mexican food?
Chuy has opened 24 various types of restaurants throughout his career: Japanese, French, Mexican, Mediterranean, Thai Seafood, and Mexican Seafood. His highest level of expertise is in Mexican Seafood because of where he grew up. Mazatlán locals know how to cook the best seafood!
After spending all day in the kitchen, do you like to cook at home?
Chuy says he hardly eats at home because he’s never hungry after seeing food all day! His wife will have dinner ready for him by the time he gets home, but he won’t eat it until around 1 AM – around the time he begins to get hungry. Even though he hardly cooks at home, he often grills steak and other meat on the weekend for his family. Once a month, he will also barbecue for his family, but using the conventional oven! Now, that’s innovation.
Where do you find inspiration to create new dishes?
Chuy will use whatever he finds in the kitchen to whip up something new. He consistently chops up different
ingredients and mixes different sauces and spices to create new flavors. He works in reverse and will throw something together, and then taste it to figure out which combinations provoke the flavor. Once he finds the taste, he will try to match it to the best type of meat or fish.
Many of the dishes are also inspired by the patrons. People will
come to Chuy and describe something they tasted or something they are craving, and he will try to create it. For example, the Torre Lida and Sashi-Tommy were inspired by our guests!
What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
Chuy’s favorite dish is the Zarandeado Fillet. A steel net is used to cook the fish fillet on both sides, keeping it together. The term “zarandeado” is also from Mazatlán, meaning “to shake.” On the menu, you can also find more of Chef Chuy’s recommendations!
If there is one thing on the menu that everyone must try, what is it?
Chuy says if you have never been to Costa Pacifica before, you MUST try the Oriental Tostada or the Shrimp Aguachile on your first visit. The Oriental Tostada has been the #1 most ordered item on the menu since the restaurant first opened. You can find a few other Asian influences throughout some of the dishes on the menu.
What is one thing many would be surprised to learn about you?
FUN FACT: Chuy was a feather weight boxer for 8 years with 45 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie. You won’t want to pick a fight with him!
Taste Chef Chuy’s Inspired Dishes at Costa Pacifica
The Mexican Seafood at Costa Pacifica will make you feel like you crossed the Texas border…. and never want to come back to San Antonio! The dishes are out of this world: fresh, tasty, and full of mouthwatering flavor. With a new large menu, you will have even more options to choose from. Don’t worry, we were sure to mark each of Chef Chuy’s recommendations.
What would you like to see him whip up next? Feel free to ask! All you have to do is come on in and eat your heart out. Check out the full menu here!