Working in professional kitchens from the age of 15 and coming up through global institutions such as San Sebastian’s Mugaritz, Santiago Lastra’s journey is one to impress even the most seasoned diners.
Over the past four years, Santiago has travelled the globe, accepting guest chef invitations at high profile establishments including London’s Tate Modern and Hija de Sanchez in Copenhagen, before accepting an invitation to return to his homeland and launch NOMA Mexico in 2017. Instrumental in the concept as Rene Redzepi’s right-hand man, Santiago spent the year researching and sourcing exceptional ingredients from unassuming small-scale producers across the country.
Santiago Lastra is the chef revolutionising Mexican food
Lastra’s revolution starts with the food. “It’s underrated and under-represented. There’s this misconception of, like, Tex-Mex, burritos. Sombreros. I don’t have anything against that, but I think that’s different: Tex-Mex food, that’s for Texas. That’s not Mexican.”
It turns out he’s not just opening a restaurant, he’s launching a movement. “At the end of the day, our main goal is to represent the quality of Mexican culture and Mexican cuisine,” the 30-year-old says, “as well as British ingredients. It’s this beyond and the recognition of, like, being the best restaurant in the world, or the best chef in the world… It’s more like a goal of cultural representation and respect.” He talks keenly about being a force for social good and “supporting an ecosystem, of staff, of suppliers.”
After this experience, travelling and getting to know the traditions and personalities behind Mexican gastronomy, he realised that there were only a few examples of authentic Mexican cuisine in the world; so many restaurants overlooked the intangible elements that reveal its true quality.
“I’ll Make the Mexican Sun Shine on London”
KOL is a new and distinctive voice in London’s landscape of restaurants, and a shining example of Mexican cuisine. The concept was born on a beach in Tulum, shaped from a desire to be a part of the few who represent Mexico in an authentic way. A cuisine rooted in tradition, but always evolving and adapting, holding at its core the understanding of landscape, culture and people.