Chef Jorge Montes, is the charismatic chef behind Chef George Catering. Born in Lima, Peru, and raised in Miami, Montes shines when working with fresh herbs, exotic spices and seasonal ingredients. The aromatic and flavorful tastes that emanate from his creations have earned him the nickname Chef Sazon, referencing the popular Latin term for “Good Seasoning”. As a high school student in 1999, Montes began an apprenticeship at the award winning Two Chefs Restaurant in South Miami. He gives his mother credit for encouraging him to take a leap and inspire his dream to become a chef. With a desire to learn more, Montes enrolled in the culinary arts program at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where he graduated top of his class. While at school, he was the captain of the Culinary Competition
Team, earning two state championships, five gold medals and a national ranking. Following this achievement, he continued at Two Chefs and became one of the cooking class instructors, working his way up to Executive Sous Chef, and specializing in catering and special events. Sazon is also the instructor and co-founder of Homemade Chefs, a program offering weekly hands-on interactive cooking classes. I present this week’s Chef in the Spotlight, Jorge Montes.
South Florida Food and Wine: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
Jorge Montes: My native roots, culture and past chefs inspire and influence my cooking. I’m Peruvian. I love my country’s cuisine and latin flavors in which I use often in many dishes. Mentor chefs from college and past workplaces have also stimulated my culinary passion and skill sets. I’ve worked with European chefs; therefore I have a fond care for French technique and dishes. I appreciate the variety of cultures and food, especially in South Florida, the diversity of ingredients and dishes inspire you to be creative with food. I like to travel around the world in my menus from time to time.
South Florida Food and Wine: When did you realize that cooking was your passion?
Jorge Montes: It was love at first sight. I started working pro bono at a fine dining establishment as an apprentice in the kitchen at the age of 17. I peeled cases of potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, strained stocks…pretty much grunt work but I was ecstatic. One night that week, at the end of the shift the chef cooked me a rib eye steak. While eating my meal and still trying to assimilate the days happenings, I had that moment of enlightenment.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite item on your menu?
Jorge Montes: Anything Peruvian! I like lomo saltado, a stir fry dish with beef tenderloin, tomatoes, onions, aji amarillo and french fries. Yes French fries in there, I said it!
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite dish to make at home?
Jorge Montes: I love Italian food! I like rigatoni with a meaty tomato sauce with braised short rib, meatballs and sausage, lots of parmesan cheese and olive oil.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Jorge Montes: My mom’s Papas ala Huancaina, a Peruvian dish of boiled Yukon gold potatoes with a creamy aji amarillo sauce.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to cook with and why?
Jorge Montes:Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto! He is a living legend in the culinary world, I would love to pick his brain and get pointers on filleting fish. He loves what he does and it really shows.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one guilty pleasure food?
Jorge Montes: Fried chicken. From KFC, I love me a chicken thigh, original please!
South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at?
Jorge Montes: I ate at Sugarcane bar and grill in Miami. Food is great there, I love the small plate concept and the ambiance is refreshing.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who would you most like to cook for? And why?
Jorge Montes: Great question. I think I would like to cook for my family members that have never tried my food, my grandfather, grandmother, father and all my family in Peru. It would be cool to show off to them and share good food!
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun?
Jorge Montes: I like to spend time with my friends and family. Whether playing basketball, a bbq (yes I might even cook) or just going out for a drink.
Love the South Florida food scene? Check out our newly published book (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95), Food Lovers’ Guide to Miami & Fort Lauderdale