'Argies' latin-style deli at ERA

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'Argies' latin-style deli at ERA

Thu 07 August 2014

Our local culinary master hailing from the hills of Argetina, gave us a bite of his time in the busy buzz leading up to ERA’s grand opening! We had a chat to Juan Andres Vais, Head Chef and Creator of the Argies Dining Experience in the ERA Café, to give us an idea and some insight into what we can expect to treat out taste buds with once his kitchen has opened its doors and the all the ‘foodies’ come rolling in to get a bite of the action!

Hey Juan! Thank you for taking some time out of what must be a crazy schedule right now to let us get to know you better. Lets start with your background, how was your experience growing up in Argentina?

I grew up in Buenos Airies but I left at age 23 to venture out. My experience growing up was always leaning towards a direction as an entrepreneur. At the age of 12 years old I was already working in my school cafeteria where I worked for free lunch, I then saved the lunch money my dad gave me and bought DJ equipment after which worked as a DJ throughout Argentina, even playing at massive parties like PACHA. I also really enjoyed  the independence from my parents, who gave me the freedom to follow dreams

What gave you the edge that makes your cuisine top notch?

Argentine cuisine in itself is something so unique, and because I indulge in my Argentine roots I can express that through my food… “I am my Culture”. As for the flavours they are different and rather beefy!
Our meat cuts are even different, the way of cooking different, for example we have NO sauces on our meat like is very common here in SA. But what I would have to say gives my food the edge is the originality in finding the best way to make this quality affordable and unique!

What about Argentina has inspired you ideas of food?

My mother always cooked very well from what I can remember and all my cooking secrets are from her. I was always interested in the kitchen and watching her make all our home cooked food. I remember being left with my brother to make food for ourselves the one day and he landed up making a regular beef patty burger while I was buys making a gourmet egg & cheese. I was always inspired to make food but my general ideas come from home, my experience and of course my own self taught knowledge. I love working on how to make current recipes better with that Argentine angle.

What is your favourite dish to cook?

Wow my favourite dish to cook would have to be Asado which is what all South Africans call a braai. Let me tell you, I make a kick ass braai! Just Last week I landed up catering for 17 people at my home and it turned out absolutely great! I think the key to it is the combination of knowing what to do with the right ingredients and how to lay them all out.

Which dish would you say defines you as a Argentine cuisine chef

I would have to say that the dish that defines me is definitely the Pamplona. There are normally two versions, the one everyone knows and the one I invented. My version goes a little something like this; Its a chicken breast stuffed with ham, mozzarella, asparagus, sundried, tomato, garlic, parsley, olives, served with bacon. Its actually normally made with all meats but we definitely prefer it with chicken.
To add to it, I take out bacon, add brush egg around it and then deep fry it with bread crumbs. It’s a beautiful dish and its VERY tasty, it also comes garnished with tomato basil coulees on a bed of rocket.

At “Argies @ ERA”, which dish would you say comes highly recommended and why?

Well that’s a tricky one for me, I think definitely the Pamplona for the above reasons, and definitely the beef sandwich! The salads are also ridiculous and so are my pancakes… the truth is they all my babies and Ive given my all to each and every item making it impossible for me to choose, but my favourite has to be the beef sandwich or even the egg & chorizo breakfast. Another top choice is the home made fruit yoghurt muesli with organic honey

What would you say makes a dish typically Argentine?

Hmmm, Id have to say that the factors that make a dish Argentine is the follows: Firstly it must always be done by an Argetinian of course. It has to be our own cut, our own way and once again, its not only the food, people buy into ‘me’ before they buy into the food, its about the culture behind the food, for example its not about a beef sausage… instead its about a proper Argentinian chorizo, eaten with the original sauces.

We cant wait to get stuck into “Argies @ ERA” tell us more about the beginnings of this awesome concept?

I remember being first approached by Gio saying he had this place and wanted me to do the food for, about a year ago and then meeting after meeting eventually resulted in the Argies concept!
After having eventually decided on operating times that was the defining decisions for the menus and the food that would be served. During the day would be aimed more at a health conscious menu whereas the night would be more of a tapas menu to nibble on with minimal mess. The concept is very clear – ERA is unique, its a whole new category, it cant be compared to anything here at the moment and the truth is that amazing place cant be the best without amazing food. Ferrari needs good tyres, even if the engine is great! Argies plays a massive role, completes the picture, gives the edge… Argies are the wheels of ERA!

Walk us through you ultimate vision for “Argies @ ERA”

Argies has had to adapt to the uniqueness of ERA, while maintaining the originality of the Argies brand, I think that doing this well was a major part of the vision. Keeping on evolving and getting better and bigger, growing together with ERA!

How would you best describe the “Argies @ ERA” dining experience?

I think to describe the Argies dining experience in a nut shell would be to say that its me trying to make everybody happy and satisfied. The experience can be split up into three different customers:
The health conscious customer who wants a non fatty meal with no bread, an amazing health type breakfast. To the customer on-the-go who is hungry (or even hungover hehe) and need carbs for whom the beef sandwich / croissants / egg & chorizo breakfast would be perfect! Then there is the customer working at ERA during the day for whom teas and health smoothies shakes are the order of the day
We then of course have the Dulce de lece cake and pancakes and then our tostadas which are typically Argentine. Argies’ menu is aimed at catering to all clients, and the menu is centered around ‘apertivo’ time. So come after work and listen to music, have a great beer with mates, and satisfy the need to nibble (as we call it ‘Picada’ in Argentina). We are going to serve amazing Picadas with a selection of fresh cold meats, cheeses and breads, sundried tomatoes and figs – Argentine and Italian cuisine coming together! Come to listen to a great DJ on the way home with something delicious and a drink to accompany it.

Lets get to know your taste outside of the kitchen, what music can we catch you listening to on the regular?

That’s funny because the music in my car is Spanish, not like what you think like the typical “Guan Tanamera”, its more samba music, I love Argentine rock and roll! I just love to listen to itIf I don’t listen to it in my car I cant really listen to it anywhere else. I also love dancing ‘Cumbia’ with my friends but if its not traditional id have to say I love High tech, minimal techno, deep house
Floyd Lavine, Claudia, dodge and the whole clan always bring it down!

And finally, what does the ERA experience mean to you?

ERA experience for me means, a pioneer, means that everything in one place can be really amazing. Gio took all the resources he had to work with and rounded up all the people with special talents and coordinated each of these people with their unique talent, with everybody giving 100% to create ERA! that’s what the ERA experience means to me.. a group of talented people bought together in one place for one cause. Best of the world under one roof!