Chef Ronaldo Linares draws on his Cuban and Colombian heritage to create flavorful, Latin American-inspired dishes that fit active, healthy lifestyles. He partnered with the American Diabetes Association on his new cookbook, “Sabores de Cuba: Diabetes-friendly traditional and nuevo Cubano cuisine.” The book features recipes in English and Spanish for Cuban dishes with a healthy twist, such as Pernil Mojo Marinated Pork Tenderloin and Green Vegetable Egg Tortilla. We interviewed Linares on how he makes classic Cuban dishes diabetes-friendly, where he finds his culinary inspiration and what the future holds for Cuban cuisine.
In what ways does Latin American cuisine naturally lend itself to healthy cooking?
The food itself is naturally healthy, from the tubers, to the tropical fruits, meats, fish, poultry dishes. We are rich in food and sazon!
What changes did you make to classic Cuban dishes to make them diabetes-friendly?
The tweaks are mainly in the use of salt and choosing healthier oils (such as avocado oil) for everything. Cuban food is about getting the right combinations of spices so the flavor will come.
The book contains both traditional and nuevo-Cuban dishes. How has Cuban cuisine evolved over the years? You always need the staples in Cuban cooking, for sure, and that’s why we have the classics in the book. As for Cuban cooking evolving, I have seen a lot of the Cuban chefs take it in their own direction but still stick to the flavors that made up Cuban food like citrus, cumin and bay leaf.
How do you predict the Cuban culinary scene will change now that the US has lifted travel restrictions to Cuba?
I have seen it grow tremendously over the past 5 years. I notice that at the restaurant, in our growing clientele. Curiosity will bring them in and the food will keep them coming back. Now that Cuba is open it is our duty to represent Cuban cuisine the right way.
You are Cuban/Colombian/American. How do you draw on all these influences in your cooking? What dish best represents you as a chef?
I draw on the inspirations from my childhood and my evolution as a man. I take some of my mother’s Colombian, rustic approach to cooking and my father’s Cuban techniques and the flavors he taught me. The dish that represents me the most is Boliche. It’s eye round beef stuffed with chorizo and braised for hours. The braising liquid is filled with aromatics that give the beef a ridiculous flavor profile. It’s a simple, but delicious dish. We always had that growing up, I guess it reminds me of my journey.
If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s email list for more stories about the food and beverage industry. We offer 14 newsletters covering the industry from restaurants to food manufacturing.