By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Anyone familiar with Mexico City’s premiere French restaurant Cedrón will be a little taken aback to discover that it is currently hosting a month-long hamburger festival.
Certainly, the upscale Colonia Condesa bistro’s owner and executive chef, Alejandro Fuentes, never imagined Cedrón turning into a fast-food joint or himself into a short-order chef.
In fact, the French-schooled Fuentes – who once worked at Paris’ famed Ritz Hotel – was initially opposed to the idea of hosting a hamburger fest and glorifying the quintessential embodiment of American bad taste in food.
But when his partner Gonzalo insisted that he at least try out the concept, Fuentes finally came around to the idea, with the unnegotiable condition that the hamburgers in question would be prepared in accordance with strict French culinary discipline.
“I think what distinguishes French cuisine from the rest of the world’s cookery – in addition to its exquisite sauces – is its rigid discipline and commitment to perfection,” Fuentes told Pulse News Mexico.
“A good French chef will never cut corners or use poor quality ingredients. In order to create great food, you must start with great ingredients.”
And that is exactly what Fuentes has done with Cedrón’s first-ever hamburger festival, titled “La Malquerida” (“The Unloved”), which may be a last jab of protest against his partner’s insistance on exalting the lowly burger to haute cuisine status.
Using only the finest filet mignon and ribeye beef, Fuentes has, in fact, created three French interpretations of the American-style ground-meat patty sandwich.
“The classic hamburger is generally associated with greasy fast food,” he said.
“But I prepare my patties as if they were filet mignon, and my buns are all made in house using naturally fermented dough, so it is neither greasy nor commonplace.”
The first option on the Malquerida menu is a French onion soup burger, which Fuentes explained is made with the same care and meticulousness that he applies to his classic soupe à l’oignon, slowly caramelizing sweet Vidalia onions to golden brown perfection and then crowning the creation with a selection of lightly melted gouda, emmental, raclette or Roquefort cheese.
There is also a Mediterranean burger, bathed in a tangy compote of cherry tomatoes and raclette cheese with gently wilted lettuce.
And for vegetarians, Fuentes has fashioned a quinoa and couscous patty with a blend of fresh veggies on a whole-wheat bun accompanied by a spicy banana and chipotle dip.
In the end, Fuentes begrudgingly admitted that maybe his partner’s idea to temporarily venture into the world of fast-food icons was not all that bad.
“In today’s world, nearly all food is fusion, or at least partially fusion,” he said.
“Before studying in France, I spent seven years as the chef on a private yacht travelling the open seas, and wherever I went, I would try to learn something about the local cuisine and try to incorporate that into my French cooking style.”
The hamburgers being presented at the Cedrón Malquerida festival are, Fuentes insisted, more French than American.
“If you think about it, a hamburger is nothing more than a hot ground beef sandwich on a bun,” he said.
“I have taken that equation and elevated it to French cuisine stature by applying French cooking standards and using high-end ingredients.”
The “La Malquerida” hamburger festival at Cedrón will run through Oct. 31.
Cedrón is located at Avenida Mazatlán 24 in Colonia Condesa (tel: 2155-6403).
It is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday, and 7:30 a.m. to 12 midnight, Thursday through Saturday.
There is a life jazz band in the evening starting at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.
All major credit cards are accepted and valet parking is available in front.
Reservations are highly advised, especially on weekends.