Photography: Courtesy Of De La Costa
Douglas Rodriguez, Miami-based executive chef who owns restaurants in three time zones. His latest, De La Costa (435 E. Illinois St.),opens in July in the River East Art Center.
D: When did you have that “A-ha! I’m going to be a chef!” moment?
DR: Julia Child used to be on Saturday mornings, on PBS. I used to have to fight my brother and several cousins to watch. They wanted to watch cartoons and I wanted to watch Julia Child. Something was wrong.
D: What can Chicagoans expect from De La Costa?
DR: A lot of fresh, coastal Latin American cuisine. No Mexican. I consider my food tortilla-free Latin American cooking. We have a seviche bar. The marinades will be citrus juices but you change up the protein.
D: Are there dishes that wow in one city but not another?
DR: Lots. For instance, in New York I can sell tripe and sardines. It’s a difficult sell in any other city. Can’t give it away in Miami. Or any other city for that matter.
D: You going to try it in Chicago?
DR: No. The little that I know about Chicago is that it’s pretty much a meat-and-potatoes town. But we do everything Latino style, because we are Latino people. We put a little chimichurri on everything.
D: Any De La Costa dishes that will blow people away?
DR: Our pastry chef, José-Luís Flores, does a chocolate cigar with an edible matchbook that lights on fire. And now he’s working on a new one in which he infuses tobacco smoke into some part of the cigar.