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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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The Migrant Kitchen 1-Hour Special

Los Angeles’ booming food scene is being shaped by a new generation of chefs. Visit almost any kitchen in Los Angeles and it is likely you will find a migrant chef combining ethnic cuisines with new flavors and techniques. And often within the food, is a story of their migration.

“The politics of migration, the labor economy, all that drama plays out in the restaurants that we go to,” says journalist and author Rubén Martínez

'Mexican'

A collective of culturally connected, distinguished chefs (including Ray Garcia of Broken Spanish, Wes Avila of Guerilla Tacos, Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria, as well as Jorge Gaviria of corn purveyor, Masienda) work to preserve heritage and push forward the “Alta California” Mexican food movement. By celebrating those dishes and ingredients integral to Mexico's cuisine and its economy, a group of accomplished Mexican-American chefs are working to elevate not only the food, but what people of their heritage can achieve in the food business.

'Vietnamese'

Banh Mi. Spring rolls. Pho. The war and its subsequent refugees. These are things most commonly associated with the Vietnamese culture and its people. But a group of chefs in Los Angeles (including Cassia's Bryant Ng, Diep Tran of Good Girl Dinette, and Minh Phan of Porridge & Puffs) are hoping to demonstrate that there's so much more than that. Featured in the episode: Cassia in Santa Monica, Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park, Red Boat Fish Sauce.