Tarryn Ginsberg is development chef and corporate general manager at London Mexican restaurant Cantina Laredo, a concept brought to the UK by her family in 2010. She tells Janie Manzoori-Stamford about the UK's appetite for authentic Mexican cuisine.
It's been two years since Cantina Laredo opened in London. How has it fared? We are delighted with the progress we have made, particularly with regard to our customer feedback on our three core values, namely, exceptional food, excellent service and recruiting, training and retaining extraordinary people.
Has the appetite for Mexican cuisine in the UK grown? London is seeing an explosion of new Mexican concepts, most of which are in the fast-food/casual-dining space. We have created a niche for ourselves in the more upscale dining experience by offering modern authentic Mexican with an abundance of flavours, vibrant colours and fresh ingredients. Mexican food has evolved over many hundreds of years with influences from Mayan Indians to Spanish, French, West African and Portuguese and will continue to evolve, as do all great cuisines.
You brought the Cantina Laredo concept over from the USA. What challenges did you have to overcome? The biggest challenge has been training and developing chefs in Mexican cooking as we follow traditional cooking techniques and use fresh ingredients to prepare everything from scratch on site each day. For example, each of our salsas takes 45 minutes to prepare. As Mexican cuisine is relatively new to the UK there are a limited number of chefs with the necessary experience, so we have had to train from the very basics, which takes longer.
Did you make any tweaks to the menus to suit British tastes? The menu has evolved to meet UK preferences and tastes, such as changes to some plate presentations to make them more in line with the UK market, but the traditional flavours and cooking methods have remained intact. Our top-shelf guacamole, which is prepared tableside with fresh ingredients, has been a big hit with customers and allows a great interaction with waiting staff and the customer.
Do you have any plans to expand to more UK sites? As we identified at the outset, there is substantial opportunity for expansion of the Cantina Laredo brand in the UK. The pace of progress will be dependent on finding the right locations and building a profitable business model.