Minh Phan | Courtesy of Life & Thyme

Ep. 1, Chirmol: How a Guatemalan Tradition Journeyed to an American Menu

Inspired by the Mayan traditions of his youth, Jorge Dugal re-interprets his grandmother’s recipe for chirmol, a fire-roasted tomato and chili based salsa, that finds a modern home at one of Los Angeles’s most revered restaurants, Providence. 

Providence chef and co-owner Michael Cimarusti has created one of the most elegant and sought after dining experiences in Los Angeles. In one of his signature dishes, made of spot prawns adorned with delicate flowers, Cimarusti says this chirmol salsa is the “backbone.”  It’s a sauce inspired by his kitchen manager, Jorge Dugal’s childhood memories.

In this episode, we meet Dugal, who has been with Providence since the doors to this elegant, white-tablecloth restaurant opened over a decade ago. He started off as a dishwasher and moved his way up to kitchen manager—an indispensable role that he holds now. It enables an upscale establishment like this to run like a well-oiled machine. The eatery has made an indelible mark on the fine-dining scene in Los Angeles, and has earned Cimarusti several James Beard Award nominations and two Michelin stars.

But behind each dish is a chef’s story, and behind the kitchen doors, there’s an immigrant’s journey to be chronicled as well. Dugal’s account of struggle and survival is not unlike his peers who left everything behind for a chance to live in the United States for a better life. Eleven years ago, he managed to escape from the gang violence and pressure that continues to plague his native Guatemala. Despite all this, he has been able to cling onto the better memories he had in Central America, even bringing some of his culture to Providence, like the chirmol.

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