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Master of flavors: Meet Chef Borbolla

We recently chatted with Grand Residences Executive Chef Rafael Borbolla about his inspiration and exciting new dishes to tempt your palate.
“How did I decide to become a chef?” muses Grand Residences Executive Chef Rafael Borbolla, “It was destiny, I thumbed the Yellow Pages directory and it opened right at the listings of cooking schools. I already knew how to cook, my parents were quite happy to let me loose in the kitchen to experiment. My grandmother used to take me to market with her when I was little; she taught me her secrets and how to choose the freshest fruit and vegetables.”
Rafael studied Culinary Arts in the Colegio Superior de Hoteleria y de Turismo Cesar Ritz and at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Turismo in Mexico City. He also took specialist diploma courses in Mexican and Italian cuisine at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana.
After training with acclaimed French chef Olivier Lombard and collaborating in the opening of Le Cirque, his Polanco restaurant, Rafael’s eyes turned to the Pacific coast. He was to spend years in Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit and Los Cabos working for several leading hotel chains and heading up a prestigious restaurant in Puerto Vallarta. “Everything that I am comes from the Mexican Pacific,” he explains. “I used to go out with the fishermen at dawn and help them bring their catch to market. The freshest seafood you can imagine. I learned cooking techniques and traditional recipes from coastal communities in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit and Baja California Sur and new ways of preparing fruits de mer shared by chefs from France, Italy and Canada who were competing in food festivals in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. I use all this experience and inspiration here, pairing the finest Pacific and Caribbean seafood with bold flavors to create a veritable feast for the senses.
“Mexican cuisine is my passion and I want to take Grand Residences guests on a culinary journey through the country, from the north to the southeast for an unforgettable evening of recipes and flavors,” says Rafael. “Mexico is so rich in ingredients, delicious dishes and culinary traditions, it is exceptional and for this reason it is on the World Heritage List.
“At Grand Residences I lead a team of 45 kitchen staff.” Rafael explains. “My responsibilities are menu planning, administration, costs, personnel management and above all, maintaining quality standards, constantly looking for ways to enrich the dining experience we offer our guests.
“ It’s been a busy few months since I joined the Grand Residences family in late 2018.” Rafael adds, “I introduced a new International theme night on Saturdays with Asian, Prime Rib, Italian and Mexican dishes to give diners more options. I have also been working on the El Faro breakfast menu, adding more kinds of fruit to the buffet and a wellness station. I incorporated a children’s area with a larger selection of kid-friendly dishes and another change is that we now serve jugs of juice on the tables with a variety of choices available.
“Our Grill Night has also changed and has more of a picnic theme and I have added the concept of a Fish Market. Diners choose the fish they want and we prepare their ceviche to order and serve it in a coconut. As soon as the annual Distintivo H kitchen and storage area inspections are over, I am going to continue making changes, focusing on the El Faro lunch menu and the Heaven Grill menu. I want to add new recipes so that diners always have something delicious and different to try on vacation.
“Alicia Guzman, our pastry chef, and I have been changing the dessert and cake selection too,“ Rafael adds. “I really believe that the more eye-catching the dessert, the more people want to try it. We have been working on the presentation of all our dessert stations and buffets to offer our diners a variety of new sweets.”
On the question of cooking influences Rafael has this to say, “French and Italian cuisine are definitely two of my greatest influences, but lately I have been drawn to authentic cuisine, the techniques of our ancestors passed down through the centuries, really fresh food, intense flavors and the smoky fragrance of a wood-burning range.
“Where do I seek inspiration? It’s hard to explain,” he says, “I celebrate food, pay tribute to my roots and when I make someone happy with a dish I have prepared, that makes me happy and inspires me to face the next challenge.”
“I think Mexican cuisine really is one of the world’s richest. A well- made black mole sauce competes with any Indian curry in terms of the complexity and depths of the flavors and the use of spices. It is a traditional dish that is also very sophisticated.
“Over the centuries Mexican cuisine has evolved, embracing ingredients introduced by settlers from all over the world and this has only made it even richer.” Rafael explains, “For example, in the 16th century, the Spanish brought over lard, milk, coffee, citrus fruit, herbs and many of the spices we use today. Our cuisine is a unique blend of native foods consumed by pre-Hispanic civilizations and ingredients from Europe and the Middle East. In turn, Mexico has shared its own gifts with the world: avocado, tomato, chile, corn, chocolate and vanilla, among others, enriching other cuisines. After all, where would French cuisine be without vanilla or chocolate, or Italian cuisine without tomatoes?
“If you ask me about Mexican chefs that have taken our cuisine on to the world stage, I would have to say that some of them are heroes, sharing a passion for our recipes and forging a path for the rest of us to follow. One of them is Enrique Olvera, who has gone back to his roots and uses locally sourced artisanal produce, which in turn boosts the livelihood of small farmers in rural areas. Chefs all over the country are now following his lead. Enrique Muñoz Zurita is another one – he is a food researcher and is rescuing traditional recipes before they fade from memory. Monica Patiño, the late Patricia Quintana and Alejandro Herredia are others. And turning to international chefs, I would have to say Massimo Bottura, not only for his cuisine, but also his charity work.
“I have lots of plans for the restaurants at Grand Residences, new dishes, menus and theme nights. And I’m offering cooking classes too, “ Rafel says. “I recently showed guests how to make tikinxic or Mayan-style barbecued fish, Ligurian-style pasta with mushrooms, rocket, toasted nuts, white wine, shrimp and grated grana padana cheese and miso soup with pork dumplings.
“My message to our Grand Residences owners and guests is to come hungry, open your heart and mind ready to try new dishes and flavors. A sensational dining experience awaits you.”

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