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A culinary revolution takes shape

May 16, 2012

Avenida Chapultepec’s newest restaurant, the Pinta Negra, is representing Guadalajara in a worldwide revolution to promote healthy eating.

Rejecting fast food in favor of fine Mediterranean cuisine, owner Othon Ledesma Velasco, 33, hopes to encourage Tapatios to embrace a different approach to dining, whether in restaurants or at home.

With an emphasis on organic ingredients, Pinta Negra’s ethos fits perfectly with the “Food Revolution,” a worldwide culinary movement led by English chef Jaime Oliver.

The concept was based on the celebrity chef’s TV show in which he sought to reform school lunch programs in the United States, to help Americans fight obesity and live healthier and longer lives.

Jamie Oliver is “an inspiration,” says Ledesma. “He’s hyperactive, he’s always trying to teach and help people by doing what he enjoys, which is cooking.”

To mark Food Revolution Day on Saturday, May 19, hundreds of restaurants around the world will be hosting events, such as Pinta Negra’s Dinner Party, to demonstrate that healthy and organic food is easy to cook at home.

From 8 p.m. Pinta Negra will put on “a taster menu with organic, sustainable ingredients sourced from local providers to benefit the local community and economy.” The menu costs 150 pesos, but be sure to arrive early as the restaurant will be full to its capacity of 40 diners.

Earlier in the day, Ledesma will be giving free cookery classes in local Mexican cuisine from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Calle Navarra 3312, Colonia Santa Elena de la Cruz. The dishes in both the classes and the dinner party will be “easy to prepare, so that people realize they can make good, interesting and healthy food at home,” he promises.

Aided by volunteers, Ledesma will be chatting with customers and handing out flyers to promote the Food Revolution. “It’s so important, the levels of obesity and malnutrition are really high in Mexico,” he says. This is largely due to a simple “lack of knowledge.”

Although Chapultepec is already saturated with trendy cafes, bars and restaurants, Ledesma believes Pinta Negra is bringing something new to the table through its healthy, Mediterranean concept.

“Yes, there’s a lot of competition here, but I think we have an advantage in the type of food we offer, because it’s fresh and organic. We prepare it quickly, because the people who come here don’t want to wait a long time for their food, but it’s not fast food, there’s nothing processed.”

He is gradually trying to use exclusively organic ingredients and plans to build a greenhouse on the ample roof space to grow all of his own vegetables, Ledesma adds. Eventually, he would also like to put solar panels on the roof to make the restaurant more sustainable.

Having opened just three weeks ago, the Pinta Negra’s menu currently consists of pizzas (65 pesos), salads (45 pesos) and bollos, with a red fruit mousse available for dessert (more dishes will be added shortly, including Greek inventions with feta cheese).

The product of complete “creative freedom,” the restaurant’s speciality, “La Pizza Pinta Negra,” combines a crunchy crust with portobello mushrooms, cranberries, goats cheese and thyme.

The Pinta Negra (Spanish for a pint of dark ale) will also soon be serving craft beers such as Cucapa, Perro Negro and the locally brewed Minerva, once liscensing issues have been resolved.

Ledesma says he learned to cook while living in Canada for two years, but the idea of opening a restaurant only came to him in February.

“The opportunity to rent the space came up and we took advantage of it,” he says, explaining that he undertook the lightning-fast project alongside two friends who own the property. “We didn’t plan much but we’ve learned a lot as we go.”

If his clients catch on as quickly, then Ledesma and Oliver’s dreams may become a reality in Guadalajara. ¡Viva la revolucion!

Pinta Negra is on Justo Sierra 1982, on the corner with Avenida Chapultepec. Open everyday from 1.30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Phone: (33) 3288-6759. For online info go to  http://www.facebook.com/pintanegra or @PintaNegraGDL on Twitter. For more information on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, visit  http://www.foodrevolutionday.com.

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