How our Casa Mi Casa co-author wants to change the restaurant business
In a New York Times profile Daniela Soto-Innes explains why she wants to make restaurants kinder, less gruelling, places to work post-Covid
The Mexican chef Daniela Soto-Innes is used to working with what she’s got. In Bread is Gold, Massimo Bottura recalls the occasion on which Soto-Innes and her business partner and fellow chef Enrique Olvera cooked at Refettorio Ambrosiano, the Milanese haute cuisine soup kitchen where Bottura and his compatriots turned unwanted restaurant ingredients into healthy, delicious meals for the city’s poor.
Olvera and Soto-Innes chose to turn some leftover produce into a mole verde, and Soto-Innes, unsatisfied with the vegetables donated to the Refettorio, searched for a little something extra. “She went out behind the Refettorio looking for wild greens to create this unexpectedly fresh mole,” Bottura recalls in the book, highlighting how Soto-Innes is always willing to push everyday dishes that little bit further.
You can detect the same impulse in Tu Casa Mi Casa: Mexican Recipes for the Home Cook, the book she co-authored with Olvera; it presents everyday dishes in a meticulous, yet approachable way, and is perfect in a domestic setting.
Now, as the pandemic threatens dining in the US and elsewhere, Soto-Innes - who was also singled out as The Best Female Chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list in 2019 - is using her spare time to find out what kind of restaurant business she wants to be working within, once Covid-19 has passed.
As a recent profile in the New York Times explains, “this year, Soto-Innes has gone from running two restaurants to overseeing four, but in various states of opening and at a time when, in some states, diners can’t even sit at her tables.”
The chef’s restaurants Atla and Cosme - launched with Olvera - in New York aren’t quite back to normal, while an LA venture, and an offshoot in Las Vegas are more or less on hold. However, it isn’t the pandemic restrictions that weigh heavily on Soto-Innes’ mind, but rather the gruelling working conditions that might return to the kitchen once this has passed.
“I think this period has been about re-evaluating how to move the world around you, and what you really want, and how to do it properly,” she tells the New York Times, in a profile that places her alongside the artist Juliana Huxtable and the architect Mariam Kamara, as 15 Creative Women for our Time. “I don’t think it’s OK to be working 16 hours a day like I used to. I don’t think it’s OK to go through all the things you have to go through before you become a chef. I’d like to be a part of that new generation, where people can breathe and have a voice. Where it’s safe.”