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At only 26 years-old, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Daniela Soto-Innes is ticking off all of the boxes of an elaborate, carefully crafted career plan. The Mexico City-born chef has already garnered the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, as well as a spot in The World’s 50 Best annual list of top restaurants for her critically-acclaimed cuisine at Cosme. But if you sit down with the remarkably sincere and considerate Brooklynite, you’ll quickly learn that her approach to food, life, and navigating New York’s competitive dining scene is anything but complicated. In fact, it’s actually quite simple.
“We don’t have any rules. The only rule is to make something delicious,” Soto-Innes says of her overall cooking philosophy.
After moving to Texas at age 12, Soto-Innes didn’t necessarily see a future in the kitchen. Her passion for creating meals and highlighting seasonal ingredients lent itself to opportunities that were hard to pass up, which later transitioned into a full-time career.
“I’ve always been really open to learn any type of thing,” she says.
Culinary school and cooking stints in Houston and Mexico City eventually led her under the wing of esteemed chef and restaurateur Enrique Olvera. It’s through Olvera that she learned to fine-tune her craft and create unfussy, albeit delicious Mexican dishes that obviously resonated with diners.
“Sometimes it’s nice to keep it simple. I’ve learned, as I cook more, that the simpler, the better, ” she says. “You want to cook the way you feel at home. You want to cook in a way where you don’t scare people away or make them uncomfortable.”
While she welcomes “adventurous” eaters and more modernized cooking techniques, keeping the flavors and preparation straightforward and harmonious will always be a constant.
“Sometimes, the more complicated the dish looks, the more people don’t want to eat it,” she argues.
At the end of the day, isn’t bold taste and seemingly effortless presentation what Mexican food is all about? If so, it’s safe to say that Daniela Soto-Innes just might be one of the most masterful chefs of Mexican cuisine in the U.S. today.
Stay tuned for more chef stories as part of Stella Artois’ Cuisine d’Auteur series that highlights the process of conceptualizing, creating, and elevating food to the level of art.