Carlos Gaytán was born in Huitzuco, Gerrero, Mexico in 1970. From a young age, Carlos fell in love with cooking, exploring a full spectrum of flavor while perfecting heirloom recipes alongside his mother, Doña Teté. At 20 years of age, he craved a new adventure and set his sights on Chicago, Illinois. Little did he know that the journey would inspire a seismic life shift and solidify his dedication to a career in gastronomy.
His culinary path began at the Sheraton North Shore Hotel, where he worked as a dishwasher and cook. Carlos quickly rose through the industry ranks, continuing as the chef-garde manger and banquet chef at the Union League Club of Chicago and ultimately landed under the tutelage of esteemed Chef Dominique Tougne at Chicago’s beloved Bistro Margot, where he served as chef de cuisine. There, Carlos’ passion for French technique blossomed in full. Far from home and on his own, the road wasn’t always easy. Despite a number of obstacles, Carlos climbed a thorny path to eventually realize his dream of owning his own restaurant, Mexique. The verdict soon came: With a seamless unification of his Mexican heritage and his love of French culinary style, he became the first Mexican-born chef to earn a coveted Michelin star in 2013. He retained the star in 2014.
In 2018, Carlos closed Mexique with a deep-seeded desire to grow and reconnect with his roots. With a vow to return to Chicago, he journeyed to Mexico. He cooked, studied, traveled and worked on new projects that allowed him to rediscover his origins and deepen his understanding of his own heritage.
He found what he was seeking – identifying with the stories of his homeland and appreciating their connection to his identity. In 2019, Carlos makes good on his promise to return to Chicago, opening two new restaurants in the heart of Chicago’s thriving River North downtown neighborhood. Tzuco – from Huitzuco (derived from the Nahuatle huixochin, meaning “plants with abundant thorns”) – approachably presents the colorful flavors of Mexico while connecting to the techniques of French haute cuisine that Carlos has honed through years of training. Tales of Carlos Gaytan reveals an intimate, 12-seat chef tasting experience, presenting an even more elevated opportunity to experience his signature style. Both restaurants share Carlos’ fascinating life experiences through a range of authentic culinary creations. These include dishes showcasing bright ceviche preparations; the delicate flavors of shrimp, clams, octopus, and salmon; the richness of chicken tinga, pork, house-made tortilla and lentils; the zest of chile and aromatic spices; and much more.
Tzuco and Tales of Carlos Gaytán exude austere beauty through architecture and conceptual design by award winning partners in Cadena + Asociados Concept Design and ATRA Form Furniture. Together, they trace the chef’s intriguing past, present and future while weaving in genuine hospitality, breathtaking atmosphere and unforgettable flavor.