With Chef Scott Linquist | Knife’s Edge

By Devika Pathak November 7, 2017

Scott Linquist is redefining Mexican cuisine one taco at a time. His career started in the suburbs of Los Angeles and now extends across 20 years in the culinary space. A few months ago, Linquist joined forces with Manish and Vikramditya Kukreja (of Kukreja Group) and Sahil Saigal and Shiraz Patel (of Stax Hospitality), to launch a genuinely Mexican restaurant in Mumbai. Xico brings the vibrancy and spirit of Mexico alive with traditional cuisine, innovative cocktails, subtle décor and smiling service. We caught up with the renowned chef and picked his brain.

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Xico

Mexican cuisine is very similar to Indian cuisine in terms of flavours yet it hasn’t done well in Mumbai at all. We don’t have a single Mexican restaurant here, why do you think that is?

There are many similarities with Mexican and Indian cuisines such as the bold spicy flavors, lots of sauces, fresh herbs and flatbreads that are served with every meal. If I were to venture a guess as to why Mexican food has not taken off in Mumbai it would be the simple fact that they were most likely bad examples of the cuisine. Dumbed down, overpriced, tex-mex versions that never had enough authenticity to create a strong brand.

I’ve cooked and studied Mexican food and culture for over 20 years and have opened a dozen or more Mexican restaurants so we understand the roots and origin of the dishes and try to keep the soul of the cuisine. I also believe there is a sort of a culinary revolution going on in Mumbai and I think people are becoming more and more interested in trying new and interesting food.

What is the food philosophy behind Xico?

Xico is a multi-regional Mexican restaurant sticking to the roots of Mexican cuisine using the best and most authentic ingredients available. We have classic dishes from Oaxaca to Vercruz, from Michoacan to Puebla, Yucatan and many others.

Camote Tacos

Camote Tacos

What can one expect in terms of flavours, ingredients and plating?

We use up to 30 different types of fresh and dried chiles. In Mexican cuisine chillies are not just used for the heat, they are combined together to create balance and depth to the dish and not necessarily hot and spicy. We import many products from Mexico and the US, a vast array of chiles, spices such as achiote, herbs like Mexican oregano and we only use the best Hass avocados available.  Our plating and presentation is straightforward, simple and beautiful. I do not believe in over manipulated presentation, I prefer to let the food speak for itself.

Tell us a little bit about the cuisine.

People are starting to learn more about Mexican food these days and realize it is more than just tacos and that burritos aren’t even Mexican! The base of the cuisine started from pre-hispanic cultures like the Mayans, Zapotecs, Mixtecs and Aztecs with the influence of the “conquistadors” French and Spanish through the centuries.  Mexico has a bounty of natural resources that create a cuisine with depth that is as interesting as any in the world.

What do you love most about Mexican food?

The people, because without the Mexican people I would not have ever been able to experience and learn as much as I have. Mexico has a beautiful culture and food is a celebration. The cuisine starts in people’s homes and not in fancy restaurants with prissy presentations, very similar to Indian cuisine. Meat is a luxury to most in Mexico so when there is a celebration you roast a goat or lamb, make a mole that takes three days to prepare and enjoy sipping mezcal with friends and family. I have worked alongside the fantastic people of Mexico for over 20 years, learning and enjoying their warmth and hospitality. For me it is not as much about the recipes I have learned but more about the people I learned them from.