Chef Rene Camelo is the executive sous chef at The Ritz-Carlton Cancun. Camelo has an incredible journey in the hospitality industry in Mexico – working his way from dishwashing, to cooking, to managing a KFC fast food restaurant, and finally landing a coveted position working for Ritz-Carlton. We caught up with him about how his experiences working in fast food have translated to working in the Ritz-Carlton Cancun kitchen and the importance of sustainability as it pertains to tourism in Mexico.
How does your Mexican heritage impact the way you cook and approach food?
During my experience in the kitchen, I have learned how to treat food in a way that can bring out the best in it – the best flavor, aroma, texture and color. If we talk about dried chilies, a single type of chili can have different aromas and flavors depending on how you prepare it. And the result of it is incredible since you can make combinations in both color and flavor that are striking on the palate.
Before being hired as Executive Sous Chef at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun, he worked in several other hotels and in fast food, managing a KFC. What skills or experiences have you been able to apply in the hospitality and fast food industries? Is there any crossing or similarity in your approach to these positions?
Yes, of course! Having worked in fast food restaurants, there is a similarity between the way both industries manage their standard system. From customer service, the importance of each customer being satisfied by the service or product; the direct approach to guest satisfaction. I’ve applied those skills and experiences since I started with the Ritz-Carlton company. We know that the most important thing is the anticipation and fulfilment of the guest’s needs. That’s why it’s a successful company and successful for those of us who work in it.
What is the best advice you have received or the lesson you have learned throughout your career?
I have learned that if you do what you are passionate about, the rest comes behind you.
Ritz-Carlton has been promoting the implementation of increasingly sustainable practices in its properties throughout the world. How have you seen this have an effect in Cancun?
In recent years, we have supported the local producers of honey, local seasonal fruit, meats and sausages of the region and thus implement the traditional local food in our menu. This makes our guests feel happy because we have a culinary center in which our cooks are taught how to prepare food from our own local area.
Why is sustainability important to you?
It is important for local producers to also benefit from the tourism that we have and so they can get ahead with their own businesses. This generates more interest in tourism and draws more people to Cancun due to innovative products that are created without forgetting the care of the environment.
photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton