Chef Q & A: Alejandro Castaneda

Alejandro Castaneda

Head Cook

Amigo’s Café of Marco

1000 North Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Phone: 394-2221.

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. Most major credit cards accepted.

Began working at present restaurant?

Almost four years ago.

Who or what inspired you to become a chef/cook?

I’m from Mexico and my first job in Mexico City was a dishwasher in the Guadalajara Grill. I was a good worker and the chef noticed me and asked me if I would like to learn to be his kitchen helper. I was a fast learner and worked my way up to cook.

What was your first restaurant job?

On Marco Island it was Amigo’s but before I came here I worked in several restaurants in the Mexico City area.

How long have you been cooking professionally?

Going on six years, including Mexico.

Do food trends affect your cooking style?

Here at Amigo’s we’ve always served prepared with the freshest ingredients — the best quality meats and seafood and quality local produce when available.

Are you planning changes to your menu for the summer season?

Not really, our trend is traditional Mexican home cooking and that’s what our customer like. When they come to Amigo’s they like to find their favorites on the menu.

What is the most popular dish on your menu?

Ah, our fajitas are most popular and they can be ordered for one and can also be ordered as a combo with a choice of two. We also have combos for two people that come with a choice of two kinds of meat or seafood and also three kinds – the chicken, steak and shrimp combo is very popular with couples.

What is your favorite food? Why?

Chicken Mole because it’s the traditional dish of Mexico but can be made different ways. I fry my chicken first and add many spices and ingredients to make the Mole sauce and then I serve the dish over cooked rice.

Who would you like to cook a meal for? Why?

My mama, she lives in the area and her favorite dish is my Carne Asada – grilled steak topped with onion and bell peppers.

What is your most essential cooking implement? Why?

My kitchen tongs because they are so handy. I can use them like a spatula to turn food over or stir things like with a spoon.

What would you like to be doing if you weren’t a chef?

I would like to open a restaurant in my home town of Mexico City.

What annoys you most in the kitchen?

I’m very easy going. We have a great kitchen team at Amigo’s and we work well together.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

I love my job and I enjoy cooking meals for our customers. I like to see people happy and enjoying their meal.

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