Thursday 4 February 2016
Diego Hernandez is one of a new generation of forward thinking chefs who are putting Mexico on the world culinary map. Born in Ensenada (the third largest city in Baja California on Mexico’s north coast), Hernández worked for some of Mexico’s top pioneering modern chefs including Benito Molina of Manzanilla in Baja, Guillermo González of Pangea, Monterrey and Enrique Olvera of Pujol in Mexico City. He then attended Culinary Ar t School in Tijuana, where he studied for three years, before opening UNO restaurant in the city. It was there that winemakers Phil and Eileen Gregory discovered him and invited him to open a restaurant with them.
Corazon De Tierra is hidden away in the lush wine making region of Guadalupe Valley, just off the coast from Ensenada. Over the last few years, the area has emerged as a true gastronomic destination and now boasts around 80 wineries and 25 restaurants. Housed in an elevated wooden building made from recycled materials, the bright and modern Corazon de Tierra looks out over the Gregory’s Vena Cava vineyard (which is also home to the couple’s La Villa del Valle boutique hotel), olive groves, rows of lavender and the mountains beyond.
Corazón de Tierra translates as ‘heart of the land’. It is aptly named because Hernandez draws inspiration and ingredients for his daily-changing six-course tasting menus from the fruit, vegetables and herbs cultivated in the restaurant’s own grounds (they even make their own olive oil and honey) and local sustainable produce from the surrounding area. So a meal of Hernandez’ highly creative food, rooted in Mexican tradition but blending in Mediterranean and Asian flavours and wide open to innovation, might include strained tamale with mole amarillito, farm cream and dehydrated parsnip; grilled oysters with bacon and chard; spider crab, radish sprouts and mint with sweet carrot broth and rock cod tiradito with flowers and seaweed.
In addition to the main restaurant, Hernandez also oversees Troika, a food truck that’s permanently sited on a hill in the Vena Cava vineyard. There, he serves modernised classic Mexican finger food including octopus, scallop and shrimp tostados (deep fried tortilla) as well as roast pork ‘sliders’ (mini burgers). At weekends there might be a whole lamb or pig spit-roasting over an open fire.
Hernandez’ very particular and original take on ‘farm to fork’ cuisine has put him at the cutting edge of world gastronomy. With a cookbook due for publication soon, it won’t be long before his food reaches an even wider audience.
Diego Hernández Obsession 16 Menu
SMOKED TUNA TOSTADA, GINER-AVOCADO PUREE, DRY SEA LETTUCE AND UNI POWDER
BLACK BEANS AND HOJA SANTA BOCOL WITH MRS KIRKHAM'S CHEESE
WATERCRESS AND TOMATO SALAD, DASHI GELATINE, POMEGRANATE GEL AND CHLOROPHYLL
Grüner Veltliner, Lössterrassen, Gobelsburg, Kamptal, Austria, 2014
ROASTED FENNEL BULB, ROASTED CHERVIL ROOT, JUICED STEMS AND FRESH TOPS WITH COAL
L’Esprit de Chevalier Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, 2012
CELERY TAMAL, DRY PARSNIP, PIGEON AND MOLE AMARILLITO
Lambrusco Rosso Secco Reggiano Concerto Medici, Emilia Romagna, Italy, 2014
SUCKLING PIG, CHILMOLE, BURNT EGGPLANT, XCATIC EMULSION, PICKLED CARROT AND TORTILLAS
Quinta Vale D.Maria, Christiano Van Zeller, Douro, Portugal, 2006
GINGER BREAD, BLACK RADISH FOAM, FENNEL POLLEN ICE CREAM, CILANTRO LEAF CHLOROPHYLL
Holdvölgy, Tokaji Sárgamuskotály, Nyulászó, Tokaj, Hungary, 2011