In the Hot Seat with Jennifer Fernandez from Fuego Taqueria in Sea Point
Jennifer Fernandez is the lady behind the delicious Fuego taqueria, located in Sea Point. The restaurant and food is inspired and influenced by Jennifer’s Dominican heritage. When this native New Yorker moved to Cape Town, she decided to pursue a lifelong dream of opening her own restaurant, and thus Fuego was born.
The small but uber slick restaurant serves up dishes that are a part of the fabric of Jennifer’s culture – think crispy empanadas, fresh fish ceviche and homemade nachos with guacamole and cheese dip. The flavours are bold and you’ll find it hard to pick from all the tasty sounding options available.
If you’re looking for abundant freshness, killer tacos and a margarita that’ll top all margaritas, then make your next outing to Fuego taqueria. Our advice? Go hungry.
We chat to Jennifer about Fuego
Has opening a restaurant always been a goal?
Jennifer Fernandez: Yes, I’ve always liked cooking and have a passion for learning about different cuisines. This started when I took culinary courses in Italy while studying at University abroad.
What do you love most about Latin American food?
Jennifer Fernandez: It’s the food that I grew up with in my home, so it’s my favourite type of food. I love that Latin American food is savoury and rich in flavour and, although most Latin countries use the same ingredients, the flavours are extremely diverse, which makes each Latin country’s food unique and never boring.
When people visit Fuego taqueria, are they experiencing true Latin American food culture?
Jennifer Fernandez: When people visit Fuego they are definitely experiencing true Latin American food. I am Latin American and in my home we only ate Latin American food, so many of the dishes on the menu are ones that I grew up with.The dishes are made with recipes from my family or ones that I have learned on culinary excursions in Latin America.
We try to offer different Latin dishes on the menu and not necessarily focus on just one Latin country. Each Latin country has their own unique flavouring but we all use mostly the same ingredients. At Fuego we do specialise in tortillas because we take different Latin dishes and place them into a taco or taco bowl. The rice and beans are made more like Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican style. The tortillas are hand-made the way I learned from some of my Mexican friends and from a culinary course in Mexico.
The meats are seasoned with typical Latin seasoning. For seasoning, we make our own sofrito, sazon, and adobo, which are very typical in Latin American cuisine.
Fuego taqueria has a great range of cocktails and specialty spirits, plus you guys make a mean margarita; what makes them so good?
Jennifer Fernandez: What makes our cocktails so good is the ingredients we use and a little outside of the box thinking. We want to create a unique experience and to do this we have to be a little creative.
With classic cocktails, we stick to the strict old school recipes. A margarita is very simple and requires fresh ingredients as they use in Mexico, which makes them great.
I personally love cocktails and although classics such as mojitos and margaritas will never go out of style, people like new and innovative things which is what we want to do with our specialty cocktails.
To do this, one has to test out different ingredients to get a great cocktail. Right now our specialty cocktails are all tequila-based but we will slowly introduce other cocktails with different spirit base. That way when the one visits Fuego and takes a look at the cocktail menu, it will be designed by spirit base. One page tequila cocktails, next page gin cocktails, next rum cocktails etc.
Is there a dish on the Fuego menu that is special to your or that you feel diners MUST try?
Jennifer Fernandez: This is a tough question to answer. The bowls are really special because they are literally a bowl of Latin America with the rice, beans and meat choice.
There are so many special ones but some of my favourites that I think diners must try to really experience Latin cuisine would be the ropa vieja empanadas – it’s actually a Cuban dish which we placed into an empanada, the patatas bravas which are from Spain, the pulled pork tacos are super tasty and for a taco bowl, I really like the chicken taco bowl.
What is one of your earliest or most special food memories?
Jennifer Fernandez: Definitely cooking with my grandma (mama Maria). She believed all women must know how to cook and she was teaching me at a very young age.
I remember my first learning session. In one day, I first learned how to make sofrito which is a common seasoning that we use for meats, rice and salad dressing. Then I learned how to cut a platano (a plantain) which looks easier than it is and then I learned how to make pollo guisado (braised chicken in a sauce).
Latin American women are known for their fiery personalities, does the name Fuego represent yours?
Jennifer Fernandez: Haha, this is very true about us Latin woman-I think my husband would definitely agree. Well, the name Fuego wasn’t intentionally meant to represent my personality although it suits it a bit. 🙂
Last book you read: When Breath Becomes Air.
Bucket list holiday destination: Israel and Egypt.
Celebrity you would love to have lunch with: Wendy Williams.
What you do to relax: Take long walks and listen to music.
Favourite sweet indulgence: Haagen Daz Brownies a La Mode or Chocolate Peanut Butter and soft chocolate chip cookies.
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