by ESS EASTMER
FOR MANY BUFFALONIANS, LAS PUERTAS IS THE ANSWER TO A DREAM. Chef
and owner, Victor Parra Gonzalez, has brought something to the region that it has never
seen before: the vibrancy of authentic Mexican cuisine with subtle European nuances. Parra Gonzales started with the acclaimed Jaguar at the Bistro (now closed). He opened down-town's Casa Azul, which serves Mexican street food, in 2016, and followed up with Las
Puertas; both restaurants have received unceasing praise from local diners.
VICTOR, YOU WERE BORN IN ACAPULCO, TRAINED IN MONTREAL FOR
SEVERAL YEARS, AND HAVE BEEN A BUFFALONIAN FOR NINE YEARS.
WITH THAT KIND OF CULINARY BACKGROUND—AND SUCH VARIED
INFLUENCES—WHERE IS YOUR FOCUS WHEN IT COMES TO CREATING
AND COMPOSING DISHES FOR LAS PUERTAS?
In Mexico, you work very hard for very little. That is the
way of life there. When I moved to Canada, I learned that if
you work hard, you get rewarded for that. That kind of shock
and way of life really propelled me to work harder to get more
in life: a little bit more financially, a little bit more free time to
experience life, a little bit more of everything. So, being born
in Mexico and then moving into French culture, it not only
changed how I looked at cooking, but how I looked at life. Culture changes your presence.
I believe that the biggest part of a restaurant is its culture.
It’s a living, breathing thing. If you aren’t steadily injecting in
new culture, it cannot thrive.
We at Las Puertas are a team who work as a cohesive unit,
not a staff of individuals working for me. We travel for food
and culinary cultivation, and we all return home and share our
experiences and build menu items based on those experiences.
YOUR MENU SEEMS TO BE EVER-CHANGING BUT ALWAYS WITH A
STRONG SEAFOOD BASE.
Seafood has been my passion since I moved to Montreal. My
teacher there failed me horribly on my first cooking test, and it
just catapulted me into a place where I heavily concentrated on
fish. There is so much finesse required when working with fish
that I’ve made it a personal mission to master fish.
SPEAKING OF FISH, LET'S TALK CEVICHE. MOST PEOPLE THINK IT'S
JUST FISH OR SHELLFISH AND LEMON OR LIME JUICE WITH SOME
SPICES, BUT, IN LOOKING THROUGH YOUR PREVIOUS MENUS,
IT APPEARS THAT YOU'VE ALREADY HAD SEVERAL DIFFERENT
VARIATIONS WITH VERY DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT INTRICACIES IN EACH
A lot of people are unaware of just how many techniques
there are when it comes to ceviche; very few people could identify where all the different styles are from. For example, there
is Peruvian, where they first started curing fish with lemon
in order to transport it. It “cooked” the fish, made it safe to
eat and/or transport, tasted good, and the lemon helped aid in
digestion. In Central America, it is a lot heavier with stronger spices and olive oil cures because the fish needed to travel further.
The ceviches in Mexico are going to be deeply rooted from
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH
all the different countries that landed there. You will see cev-
iches back home using tomato, fruits, rice wines, ponzu, soy
sauce. Why? Because that is what the
Japanese brought when they landed
What I want to accomplish with LP
is for people to understand that the food
we are going to cook here is deeply rooted in Mexican flavors, even if it isn’t represented in an expected Mexican fashion.
With that, we are looking inward and
digging deep into our collective life experiences as cooks—all that we have seen
and done—to form and shape our own
message on each individual plate.
I love pulling influences from all
around me and infusing those ideas and
flavors into something I grew up eating
I've built my career in three different countries. I was born and raised in
Mexico, I cut my teeth in Montreal, and
saw my dream come true with Las Puertas in Buffalo. Ultimately, I want to continue embracing this city and hopefully
its people will equally embrace us back
at Las Puertas.
Ess Eastmer is a food enthusiast by day
and a pastry ninja by night.