Downtown Rotana’s Executive Sous Chef, Monica Tellez, tells us about her cooking inspiration and style, her Mexican heritage and her mother’s favourite dish.

How have your Mexican upbringing and the rich culinary traditions of your family influenced your approach to cooking and how do you incorporate these elements into your dishes?
When I cook, I consider more than just my Mexican heritage. I’m thankful that I’ve had the chance to work in a variety of places and with a wide range of people with different backgrounds, all of whom have influenced the way I cook. I prepare dishes using a range of ingredients and cooking styles – things that I saw or experienced for the first time during my trips and places I worked. My passion for baking is definitely influenced by my family. My grandfather was a baker and one of my childhood memories is seeing him baking in the stone oven in our backyard.

You’ve worked for many prestigious hotel brands in Mexico. How have these experiences shaped your cooking style and what unique elements do you bring to the kitchen at Downtown Rotana?
I started my career in Mexico, but I would say my cooking style was formed while I was away. Being a Mexican chef outside of Mexico means a lot to me because I represent my culture and heritage.
In Downtown Rotana, I am bringing some of the Mexican dishes that match our food concepts, such as ceviches and tacos, in the pool bar menu and the live Mexican food station at The Village Brunch, where guests can find me most of the time. I am very proud of my Mexican heritage and it is something that I like to share with everyone.

With the ever-evolving culinary landscape, how do you stay updated on food trends and what steps do you take to keep your menu fresh and exciting?
I keep myself up to date with cooking applications, websites and, of course, trends on social media. I am also inspired by the talents of other fellow chefs who I have worked with.

As a seasoned chef with a diverse culinary background, can you share the inspiration behind your signature dish at Downtown Rotana and what makes it uniquely yours?
My signature dish is tuna ceviche filled with flavour, fresh ingredients and memories of home. It’s my mum’s favourite dish, making it very unique to me. Every time I prepare it, it takes me back home. ✤