Table Talk

Fernando Hernandez Brings Puebla to London

Let's get one thing straight. The oft-appropriated holiday, Cinco de Mayo is not, in fact, Mexican Independence Day, but finds its origins in Puebla, Mexico, and celebrates the victory over the Second French Empire in 1862. That's why, on May 5, 2023, we invited Chef Fernando Hernandez of Moyeulo, one of Mexico's finest restaurants, to bring a taste of the region to Decimo at The Standard, London. Together with Decimo's own, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, the chefs created a one-night-only menu of Steamed Mussels with Pickled Adobo, Roasted Leek with Chilli XO, Seared Scallops with Corn Esquites and Duck Carnitas with Smoked Plantain Enmoladas. 

After many plates were served and many Casamigos margaritas drunk, the 10th-floor restaurant descended into a late-night Salsa club with dancers Carlos de la Cruz giving pointers with an Afro-Latino soundtrack by live percussionist and Cuban maestro Timbalero Mr Randy Lester Hechavarria.

Before the fiesta went underway, we caught up with Chef Fernando to chat about ancestral recipes, chalupas, and the fine delicacy of every ingredient he cooks with. 

What is one difference and one similarity between Puebla and London? 

Where I was born, in the northern mountains of Puebla, there is the great similarity of cold weather and rainy afternoons, and for the same reason, great produce. The admirable difference is the great multicultural wealth in London.

What ingredients do you think are currently underrated or underappreciated in Mexican cuisine?

There is a new wave of cooks who seek to take each ingredient and dignify it as if it were a fine delicacy, this adds high value to our kitchen. There are ingredients that have not yet been used due to lack of awareness, but our task is to make them known.

"There is a new wave of cooks who seek to take each ingredient and dignify it as if it were a fine delicacy."

What do you hope people take away from their experience at the takeover at Decimo?

I hope people will try to understand that Mexican cuisine, particularly from Puebla, relies on recipes established by our ancestors, a rich repertoire of ingredients and evolving knowledge and techniques. 

How do you balance honoring traditional flavors and techniques whilst incorporating new and innovative elements in your restaurants?

We have always believed that without tradition there would be no innovation. Traditional flavors and techniques are the basis of any cuisine in the world, and from there we can start creating new dishes. The key is to try different things when you travel— try and listen to other people, to how they prepare their dishes, so you create your own ideas of how you can cook a specific ingredient.

Aside from Moyuelo, where do you like to eat out in Puebla?

Puebla is one of the regions in Mexico with the greatest diversity of dishes. There are many places, restaurants and street food stalls, where we can find many of my favourite dishes: cemitas, chalupas, arab tacos and the traditional mole poblano is something that everyone needs to try.

Can you speak to the role of food in Mexican culture and society?
The role of eating three times a day is very important, it usually brings together co-workers during the week and family on weekends. Mexican society has a very rich culture, there can be several dishes from anywhere in the country on a single table. 

This is your second time in London cooking, what have been your favourite restaurants to dine at?

I think there is a huge restaurant offering in London and I still need to try street food much more thoroughly.  Some places that I liked, in alphabetical order, were Brat, Decimo, Kiln and Manteca.

What is your favourite classic British dish?

It's the Beef Wellington, for its technical complexity and its beauty on the plate.

Consistently ranked among the best restaurants in Mexico, Moyuelo has been turning heads in the revolutionary hotspot of Mexican gastronomy since 2014. Fernando honed his skills in fine dining kitchens across Mexico, the US and Europe, including at Martín Berastegui in San Sebastián, where he was part of the team that helped the restaurant to its third Michelin star. Fernando’s dream was always to return to Mexico and open a restaurant of his own so, Moyuelo was born. Gaining rapid acclaim, Fernando’s reverence in showcasing his traditional Pueblan cooking is what has set him apart, recapturing those identity-defining traditions through food.  


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