There’s plenty of people I follow and find inspiration at around this world – some chefs for their attention to details, others for their humanity and way of approaching things, others for their teaching skills, some for their craziness in decor or flavors. And Francisco Migoya for his deep passion for everything he gets involved in, for not being like the rest, for setting himself apart from the mases. He is no doubt one of my inspirations and someone I would love to one day meet and learn from. So I thought it would be fit to talk about him in this new article about famous chefs.
Francisco Migoya, currently head chef of Modernist Cuisine (one of the coolest kitchens on Earth if you ask me) and coauthor of Modernist Bread (a real Bible regarding bread, tools and tips and tricks of bread baking), grew up in Mexico City, but he has American, Italian and Spanish roots. The flavors and cultures he grew up in surely encouraged an early love of cuisine. He does say in an interview that he feels lucky to have grown up in such an environment where he could witness food being made from scratch on a daily basis.
Migoya’s first love however was art which we can easily see transposed in his pastry in the last couple of years. So before being a chef, he set his sight on art, specifically pencil, charcoal and ink drawing which he admits he still does, this passion never leaving his side. His parents, however, encouraged him to find something that is more practical than art. At 16, encouraged by a friend, he applied for a staging position in a Mexico City hotel. He admits that his friend’s mother helped him get the job and he remembers that year of his life was interesting, with school in the morning and kitchen work in the afternoon. He was introduced to the world of French cooking in this restaurant. And boom – his love for kitchen was born.
This experience led Migoya to start a culinary degree and a career as a chef. So he signed up for cooking classes at Centro de Estudios Superiores de San Angel in Mexico City where he received a full scholarship to study gastronomy in Strasbourg, France. Fast forward to 1998 and a few savory kitchens later, we see Migoya taking a new approach by applying to a pastry chef position at The River Cafe in Brooklyn, New York. From then on, he worked only in pastry positions, such as Veritas in New York or the executive pastry chef at the famous The French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery. Eventually, he became professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
His work and eagerness to be better and better earned him the recognition of being one of the top pastry chefs in the USA in 2011 and 2013. Moreover, his chocolate shop, Hudson Chocolates, earned him the title of Top Ten Chocolatiers in America by Dessert Professional, as well as the Medal of Master Artisan Pastry Chef by the Gremi de Patisseria de Barcelona.
Migoya has authored three pastry books prior to the Modernist Cuisine: Frozen Desserts, The Modern Cafe and The Elements of Dessert, all of them proves of his amazing pastry skills and uniqueness. The latter, The Elements of Dessert, is a true masterpiece for every pastry chef looking for something else, seeking inspiration beyond the classic and going past the borders of what French pastry teaches us. Migoya says about this book that he “wanted these items in the book to be different, memorable and to make people think and be creative in their own way…Pastry is supposed to be fun. An expression of creativity. Not an imitation of what someone else is doing.” (…) But pastry is like art in a way. Or at least a very high minded craft with an artistic expression. At some point you have to ask yourself if you can express a original point of view that produces an unique experience.”
In 2014, Migoya joined the kitchen of Modernist Cuisine as head pastry chef and worked with the founder, Nathan Mythrvold to create the second Modernist Cuisine book dedicated solely to bread, book that took over 3 years of study and experiments and which they named Modernist Bread. I bought my copy of the book from Amazon. In a way, Migoya’s background in cooking, chocolate, pastry and viennoiserie was of great help in creating this book. He conducted over 1600 experiments and together, they developed new techniques that push the boundaries of bread making. The pressure-canned bread sure is innovative! Apart from this however, the Modernist Cuisine also conducted events and meals for various celebrities, including famous chefs: Massimo Bottura, Jacques Pepin, Anthony Bourdain or Ferran Adria. Migoya’s creativity didn’t stop here though. He continued to have fun and created his version of Casa Batllo (Antoni Gaudi masterpiece) in gingerbread, as well as other art projects out of bread. In a way, his work at Modernist Cuisine feels like the peak of his career so far, where he can put into practice everything he knows, from science and pastry to art and design. Now that is a true dream job, isn’t it?!
Check out some of Francisco Migoya’s work below:
Photography source: Francisco Migoya Instagram