Taking Pride in His Work

Alex Fuentes keeps his grandmother’s advice close to his heart during his career.

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Chef Alex fuentes runs the ship at Red Rock Canyon Grill in Tulsa. Photo by Natalie Green

Alex Fuentes, culinary manager at Redrock Canyon Grill in Tulsa, has worked in restaurants since moving to the United States in the early ’90s, but his favorite memory – and best advice – is from cooking with his grandmother when he was a child in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“My best memory is my grandma telling me, ‘When you rush food, it’s not going to taste good. When you cook, cook really slow and take pride in what you do,’” he says.

While Fuentes has always kept that in his mind as a chef, it isn’t the only lesson he carries from his grandmother.

“She always told me food is like chemistry,” he says. “To me, it’s the same thing. If you add just a little pinch of salt, it’s going to taste different. You add just a little bit of sugar, it tastes just a little different. You add an herb – mint, basil, anything – to any dish, and it’s going to taste different.”

Fuentes started as a busboy when he came to the States, but within a year he had an opportunity to work in the kitchen when the restaurant found itself short on staff one night.

Pork ribs are an essential part of the Cluck-n-Oink, a quarter rack of pork ribs topped with house made barbecue sauce and three pieces of rotisserie chicken, drizzled with roasted chicken jus, and served with red skin mashed potatoes and carrots. Photo courtesy Red Rock Canyon Grill

Once he had the opportunity, he made the most of it and told the kitchen manager he was willing to work as hard as it took to learn the craft.

“I said, ‘If you can teach me, I’ll be right there beside you,’” Fuentes says. “And he had the time and patience to teach me. Then I started to read some books, and I started asking questions, and I started working with [experienced] people around me. That was the time I knew I was heading into the right career.”

More than 25 years later, Fuentes still has that same love for learning. He scours books on cooking, practices constantly and uses the internet to learn skills or get new ideas. When he visits a restaurant, he enjoys introducing himself to the chef and complimenting him or her on what he likes about the restaurant.

And as a chef himself, he enjoys the trend of chefs coming out of the kitchen to meet the guests.

“I’m kind of shy, because usually the chef stays in the back,” he says. “But I meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new good friends. I like to talk to people and make sure everybody’s happy with the food. I want to be sure when they leave, they leave with a big smile.”

Cluck–n–Oink

  • ¼ Rack pork ribs
  • ¼ rack of pork ribs
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt 
  • 1 tbsp paprika 
  • 2 tbsp white pepper
  • ¼ cup granulated garlic
  1. Combine brown sugar, salt, paprika, white pepper and granulated garlic and mix thoroughly to create rib rub.
  2. Cover the ¼ rack of pork ribs with rib rub.
  3. Smoke ribs for about 8 hours or until the thickest part of the rib reaches 160-170 degrees.
  4. Baste ribs with bacon fat.
  5. Finish by cooking to taste.

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