Get to know a corporate chef: ofi’s Daniel Espinoza

Learn more about the career of a corporate chef at ofi. Hear from Chef Daniel Espinoza in this Q&A.

He discusses his journey in the food industry, what he loves about the story behind our ingredients, and how he brings ofi’s purpose to ‘Be the Change for Good Food and a Healthy Future’ to life.

 

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Please introduce yourself.

My name is Daniel Espinoza, I am a corporate chef at ofi, specializing in Latin American cuisine. My role is to innovate and create, while always spearheading nostalgia to its deep core. I am located in Chicago and began working with ofi in January 2021.

 

What led you to become a corporate chef?

My journey began in Chicago at Lincoln Park Café and then Carmichael’s Steakhouse. I graduated from the culinary arts program at Kendall College in 2010. I found my first role in a high-caliber kitchen at Carlos Gaytan’s Michelin rated restaurant, Mexique. From here, I ascended to sous chef and went on to cook at Michelin star restaurant, Bistrot de Saveurs in Castres, France, The Ausable Club in New York, as well as The Drawing Room and TWO back in Chicago, before returning to Mexique until 2013.

 

I spent the next couple of years as Dinner Lab’s Chicago-based chef de cuisine, traveling the country with restaurant pop-ups and opening new markets while training chefs and cooks. In my spare time, I run an underground supper club, "Anomar," named after my grandmother -- the pillar of where my love for Mexican cuisine started. 

 

If you had to cook a meal for someone you care about, what would you cook them, what ingredients would you use, and why? 

  • Course 1 - Hamachi crudo cured in hibiscus and smoked chipotle. Served over a raw salsa verde, pickled tarragon grapes, lemon curd, spicy pork rinds, fresh mint and cilantro
  • Course 2 - Chayote velouté, chicken skin granola, epazote oil, pickled squash
  • Course 3 - Michoacan style corundas, served with michoacan style carnitas and chicharron en salsa verde, jocoque, queso fresco, onion ash, pickled carrots and radishes
  • Course 4 - Pan seared duck breast that has been brined in chamomile and other aromatics, blackberry mole, a handmade heirloom corn quesadilla with squash blossom and pickled blackberries
  • Course 5 - Horchata cinnamon souffle, served with a hibiscus anglaise, lime zest, puffed wild rice and a caramelized white chocolate crumble

 

I would choose these five courses to help explain who I am as a chef/person, where I come from, where I've been and where am I now.

 

What do you love most about your job? 

I love that I am in the forefront of a lot of development of products that everyday consumers buy. I enjoy sharing the story, history and explaining why certain ingredients “live” with each other in such blends. Whether it is the beautiful regions or the climate that allows such spices to thrive, such as Hatch Valley, New Mexico, known for growing the infamous Hatch green chiles.

 

What do you think ofi’s purpose to ‘Be the Change for Good Food and a Healthy Future’ means to your work?

It means we have a responsibility with our customers, farmers, ingredients, and products. This responsibility comes in many forms, and one that comes to mind is respect. Respect for the ingredient, the farmer that nurtures, the industrial plants that produce and feed the consumer, as well as respecting the origins that make it real.

In May 2022, Chef Espinoza and his team of chefs working in product and application development at ofi won People’s Choice at the Culinary Fight Club in Chicago. They advance to the national Culinary Fight Fest in October 2022. Chef Espinoza previously won the prestige pork competition “Cochon 555” crowning him the prince of pork in Chicago. In 2017, he was nominated as a finalist for “eater young guns” and in 2016, he participated in “Top Chef Mexico,” during which he tested his Chicano cooking style to high praise by finishing in the top 4 out of 15 competitors.

 

In 2016, Espinoza consulted on Lincoln Park’s Holy Taco! that earned his barbacoa recipe “one of 100 best things we ate” by Timeout Chicago and earned a place among Zagat’s “30 Under 30” in 2015. He resides in Chicago’s West Humboldt neighborhood with his wife, Chef Jhoana Ruiz. In his free time, he enjoys sketching, hanging out with his gentle giant of a goldendoodle, Benny, reading and keeping up with this food industry.

 

This post originally was updated in 2022 and originally appeared in ofi’s Spices blog