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Carlos Gaytán Documentary to Chronicle Mexican Chef’s Remarkable Immigration Story

The film screens in October at the Chicago Film Festival

Carlos Gaytán
Chef Carlos Gaytán inside Tzuco’s kitchen.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

For Carlos Gaytán, 2019 is shaping up to be a huge year as Chicago’s acclaimed Mexican chef on Monday debuted Tzuco, his new River North restaurant. Gaytán will also open a neighboring bakery (Panango) in October. A tasting-menu restaurant (Tales of Carlos Gaytán) then follows in November. But the former Mexique chef and co-owner has more news: He will appear in a documentary featuring Mexican chefs that will screen on October 21 at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival.

The film’s called Vidas con sabor: De la tierra a la estrella Michelin (Lives with Flavor: From Earth to the Michelin Star). The Spanish language film is subtitled in English and tells Gaytán’s story as he left Mexico to live in America where he opened Mexique, the French-Mexican restaurant that earned a Michelin star in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. The accolade made Gaytán the first Mexican-born chef with a Michelin-starred restaurant. In the film, Gaytán talked about how he was close to closing Mexique before Michelin awarded the restaurant with a star. The award brought business in and kept the restaurant open.

The trailer contains footage from Mexique and from Gaytán’s home state of Guerrero, Mexico. Gaytán also speaks about leaving Mexico for America when he was 20.

“I arrived as an illegal person,” Gaytán said on film. “I didn’t see much future in my life, and I thought that my destiny was that I had to leave.”

Gayán’s since established himself as one of the world’s most famous Mexican chefs. He said he carried Mexico in his blood, heart, and skin while in Chicago. After Mexique closed last year, he returned home but Chicago kept calling him back. After a conversation with his daughter, in which she convinced him he should return to Chicago, Gaytán moved toward opening a restaurant in River North.

The chef has talked about how he wants Tzuco (a nickname for his Mexican hometown of Huitzuco) to be the best Mexican restaurant in the world. In the film, he describes what makes his food special.

“How am I going to present it? How am I going to surprise you?” Gaytán said in the documentary. “How am I going to change your life with a dish? Religious moments, if you want to call it, it’s personal, it’s different, you know that your hands, you have a gift, but it is not for me, that gift is for the people whom I am going to serve, it’s not mine, it’s theirs.”

The 47-minute film was directed by Pablo Gasca Gollás and Ruth Zachs Babani. It will screen at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 21 at the festival. Tickets go on sale to the general public on September 27 at the link.


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