Chef Anthony Lamas (Courtesy Madeline Doolittle, Seviche Restaurant)

Chef spotlight: Anthony Lamas

Vitals: Anthony Lamas was born and raised in Central California. Half Puerto-Rican and Half-Mexican, Lamas has always loved Latin flavors and fresh, farm-to-table cuisine. He currently owns and operates Seviche in Louisville, Kentucky, a Nuevo Latino restaurant that’s been nationally recognized as one of the South’s best restaurants.

Awards: Lamas is no stranger to competition, with a win on Food Network’s Extreme Chef, where he created a wedding menu with $99 worth of dollar store ingredients. He was also awarded a “Flavor and Spice” award in an Iron Chef-style competition against Top Chef alums Carla Hall, Bryan Voltaggio and Casey Thompson in 2011. The 43-year-old has also been invited to cook at the James Beard House five times and was a semi-finalist in 2010 and 2011 for the James Beard Foundation’s Award for Best Chef Southeast.

Experience: Lamas grew up around a huge Latino family that made a fiesta of every birthday and holiday with pig roasts and large-than-life meals. He was just 9 years old when he started to wash dishes and prep food in his uncle’s Mexican restaurant and counts his early involvement in 4H and Future Farmers of America as the reason for his passion in sustainable farming. While still in his teens, Lamas began working at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, California, where under the tutelage of Chef James Trunk, he began developing his fresh and innovative take on Latin cuisine.

His love for Nuevo Latino cuisine: “I like pushing the envelope. I make food that’s recognizable for a Latino walking in, but I update it with a modern interpretation and gourmet twist for the best dining experience of your life. For example, chilaquiles isn’t just a casserole of cheese and chips – I make mine with lobster tails, roasted poblano peppers and manchego cheese. I also use sustainable seafood, meats and organic raised chicken to elevate our cuisine. Latin food is bold, beautiful and what I do is staying true to my flavors but staying on trend and on top.”

His inspiration: “I love traveling and what I love about my food is that it’s not just Puerto Rican or Mexican, but that it’s really reflective of Latin America. I really enjoy researching different foods and using that as my inspiration to create modern dishes. At the restaurant we use molecular techniques to really infuse technique into food and so I’d say my inspiration is really driven by my love of what I do, eating and traveling and learning to make food delicious and unexpectedly different.”

Current passion project: “We’ve just done a million dollar renovation to Seviche, adding a private lounge and dining room – space which we really needed. Starting March 21 I am beginning a monthly event called the “Latin Dinner Series” where I will be doing a seated wine dinner for 40 people with a set menu featuring a different Latin country each month. My first dinner will be Peru, then Mexico and Cuba. We’ll start guests with a signature cocktail – in this case a pisco sour – and afterwards my guests will sit down to a 5-course dinner featuring food from different regions of Peru. It’s exciting for the kitchen and my regulars and it’s my excitement now to tackle foods and wines from around Latin America.”

5 ingredients he can’t live without: “Definitely avocados. I like to call it the Latino butter and it’s one of my favorite foods that I grew up just grabbing from trees on our farm. Chiles for sure, because I love spice. I’d also say limes because I love citrus because anything can be made delicious with just a squeeze of citrus. I can’t even think about cooking or roasting without it. Tomatoes, because being a California boy means the freshness of the tomato is just perfect whether it’s on eggs or sliced next to a steak. I also would have to say pork, which is my favorite meat. I love bacon, tacos with carnitas, cochinita pibil, chicharrón and lechón. When I get a heritage breed pig into the restaurant we use everything. From the ears crisped up for chicharrón to the head for a pate with jalapeño, we use everything.”

Favorite Latin and American foods: “I just love ceviches and tacos. Tacos are a great example of how Latin food has evolved: you can do a sesame soy glaze over Korean short rib or lobster with mango habanero salsa – just delicious. My favorite American food is a great burger, with non-frozen, good meat shaped into a hand-made patty on a nice brioche bun and mayo. You have to have tomatoes on it, because I’m a tomato freak. And red onion. I remember being five years old, sitting at my mother’s kitchen table eating bologna sandwiches with avocado and red, sliced onion. What kind of 5 year old does that? My cousins would call out for me to join them for a game of basketball and I would want to sit there, eating those sandwiches and loving the onion. So that burger definitely has to have red onion.”

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