Jorge Miranda

05.15.07

Taming the hellfire swelter of kitchen stoves and manning the scalding steam bath of power dishwashers, Latinos provide the backbone for many Chicago kitchens.  Despite their integral part in building the world-class food reputation our city enjoys, few Latinos have crossed the line that divides the help from the helm.

Las Palmas Chef Jorge Miranda, a Mexican immigrant who served two years in the Mexican army, crossed that line.  Securing his first restaurant job with acclaimed Latino chef Dudley Nieto, Miranda rose from dishwasher to head line cook in less than five months.  Though he wasn’t able to afford a formal culinary education, he audited classes at Kendall College.

His passion for cooking led him to become a head chef at Adobo Grill and Rosa Mexicano in New York.  He then teamed up with the Rivera family to transform Las Palmas into a palace of refined versions of the rustic pre-Columbian Mexican cuisine practiced by his ancestors.

Q. What do you wish you could pickle/change about the Chicago restaurant scene?

A. I would maintain the diversity of the industry and a passion for excellent service in the dining room.  We have an adventurous passion for the food that we prepare in our kitchens, so I wouldn’t change anything there.  Except maybe I’d figure out how to add an extra day in the week so I can get all the prep work done.

Q. What would your last meal be?

A. A rack of lamb marinated in a pesto of chilies and spices served over a red mole sauce with a side of ayocotes (black turtle beans) and habas (fava beans) with a side of mashed yucca/plantain mix.

Q. Where do you eat before or after a shift?

A. I have breakfast at home with my daughters.  If I don’t eat at the restaurant before I leave, when I get home, my wife and I prepare a meljurge, a light and healthy stir-fry of leftovers in the fridge.

Q. What’s the can’t-miss dish at your restaurant?

A. One of my favorites is el salmon al a naranja, pan-seared salmon with guajillo chili orange salsa.

Q. What should we know about your restaurant we probably don’t?

A. We support the artists and the young people of our community through fund-raisers and special events.  But above all, we try to improve people’s lives by opening their eyes to fabulous and intriguing art and also by introducing them to a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine.

Las Palmas; 1835 West North Avenue, Chicago (773) 289-4991

This article first appeared in the Chicago Sun-times in a different form.

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