Well Done

Elena Reygadas, the Chef Behind Mexico City’s Rosetta, Dishes on How to Develop a Viral Pastry

Photography by Maureen Evans. All images courtesy of Rosetta.

Elena Reygadas grew up steeped in the vibrant culinary traditions of her large Mexican family. Today, she presides over an even larger community of eager diners at the helm of Rosetta, her renowned restaurant in Mexico City. Reygadas’s flair for combining traditional flavors and personal history with a focus on fresh, local ingredients earned her the title of World’s Best Female Chef in 2023 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Outside the kitchen, she launched the Beca Elena Reygadas scholarship in 2022 to support and empower female Mexican students seeking to break into the culinary world.

Below, Reygadas shares insights into her journey, the philosophies that guide her culinary creations, and her efforts to empower women in the culinary field. 

Rosetta's exterior. Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco.

Where are you and what's in your system? 

I'm currently sitting in Rosetta. I usually get here around 7:30 a.m., give or take. I've only had roasted green tea—Hojicha, to be specific—today. 

Could you share the story behind the creation of Rosetta, and how the concept of this restaurant came to life?

Since Rosetta's opening 14 years ago, our core idea has always been to create an inviting restaurant that serves the best food possible. It’s not just for special occasions but for everyday dining for people of all ages and backgrounds. From the beginning, our focus has been on using the freshest, seasonal products available in a sustainable and respectful way. 

How do you integrate these principles into your restaurants, and to what extent does this ethos influence the development of your menu?

Our approach is to use the products available in tune with Mexico’s seasons. Mexico is a vast country, so in the case of Rosetta, “local” extends to what we consider territorial. We collaborate closely with producers from Oaxaca, from Mérida, Yucatán, to source ingredients that reflect the current season. If it’s warm, which brings the season for stone fruit, we reflect that. When it rains, we incorporate lots of mushrooms, greens. We build the menu with seasonality in mind, always in close coordination with our producers. 

Guava roll. Photography by Ana Lorenzana.

All great restaurants have a signature dish. What would you consider to be Rosetta's signature dish, and what is the story behind it?

The guava roll from our bakery has become Rosetta’s signature dish. Though it’s unusual to consider bread a dish, this is what we’re most associated with. It’s a puff pastry bread filled with guava jam, a fruit adored in Mexico and across Latin America. The caramelized jam is paired with soft cheese in the pastry, a twist on the traditional Mexican dessert of ate con queso. 

With your notable efforts to empower women in the culinary industry through the Beca Elena Reygadas scholarship, can you discuss the challenges women face in this field and the path forward you see?

Motherhood makes working in restaurants particularly intricate, given the demanding schedule. In Mexico, domestic responsibilities are still predominantly assumed to fall on women, making it impossible for them to balance household duties, children, and working in restaurants in the evening. It's quite paradoxical because women are the ones who cook, yet this very role prevents them from [doing so] professionally. 

I decided to create the Elena Reygadas fellowship as a means of support so women’s opportunities are not hindered by financial constraints. Tuition isn’t the issue as there are many free state schools, but often, the challenge is the cost of living, especially since these schools are in large cities. Twenty women have benefitted from this scholarship so far. 

Rosetta's kitchen. Photography by Maureen Evans.

What is the best place for birria in Mexico City?

Wow, that's a big question. There are many places to get birria, but the one I can speak of is found at the corner of Colima and Orizaba, right next to Rosetta's bakery. It's been there for 25 years, and I adore it because it's not too fatty but is rich in flavor. It's very seasoned but not overly spicy. 

Aside from Rosetta, what are some of your favorite places to eat in CDMX?

I love Cantina del Bosque, a place I go to with friends to order beef tongue tacos, chamorro tacos, and potato quesadillas. For seafood, La Docena is where I go to treat myself. I also like to check out what's new, especially from younger talents, like Fugaz, run by Colombian chef Giuseppe Lacorazza, who I really admire. He has a philosophy of only opening from Thursday to Sunday and maintaining a menu where the dishes remain affordable. 

Tortelloni, hoja santa, and smoked quesillo.

What's an underrated ingredient and an overrated ingredient right now?

I find that very expensive ingredients are often overrated because they’re costly, attributing a value to them that sometimes loses its essence. I don't like seeing something like lobster used so commonly when it's not even native to the place where it's being served. If you go to Scotland and eat lobster there, that’s a whole other story. 

The plant world is generally undervalued compared to the animal world. But, again, it’s all about where you are. In London, at this time of year, I wouldn’t eat a tomato. Why would I when I can have a Jerusalem artichoke? Or go to Italy and eat radicchio? There’s nothing better than, for example, a wonderful avocado. But eating an avocado in Denmark seems like absolute nonsense to me. 

Is there a kitchen etiquette rule that you live by?

For me, curiosity is the greatest tool a chef can have.