Gone are the days when cooking was a task similar to house cleaning done mostly by housewives. Nowadays, cooking is fun, entertaining and in some ways it is an art. Thanks to different celebrity chefs and their entertaining programs being a cook has turned into a glamorous profession where standards went sky high. People have realized that cooking has to be done with passion. People learned that good food can only be cooked by chefs who care for their cooking and the people they feed.
The Quad Cities area is not an exception and here we also have a great chef who is very passionate about the kitchen and who is also the winner of numerous People’s Choice Awards, among them Latino Chef in the Quad Cities 2007-2010, Chef Juan Hernandez. Currently Chef Hernandez is an Executive Chef at Steventon’s Riverfront where he is cooking up expensive and elegant American classic dishes and he, also, cooks simpler but as delicious Mexican dishes at Blue Iguana Mexican Cantina.
As any Chef out there, Chef Hernandez had to go a long way before becoming an Executive Chef. Originally from Toluca, Mexico, he started to train as chef 14 years ago, when he was still in his twenties, in big kitchens in Chicago. Rather than being intimidated by cooking and the harsh realities of work in the kitchen, Chef Hernandez became passionate about cooking. He saw a future for himself.
“My philosophy is always do your best to make our guest happy,” Chef Hernandez shares his thoughts.
Surely, the patrons of the Steventon’s Riverfront and Blue Iguana Mexican Cantina know better than anyone how passionate Chef Hernandez is about the dishes he serves to his guests. But what these guests might not know is how hard the profession of the Chef might be. Chef Hernandez tells us that chefs work long hours, anywhere between 12 to 16 hours a day. He himself works very hard and a lot of sacrifices have to be made. As any Chef out there not only does that affect him, but also his entire family. Many times Chef Hernandez has missed out on family time, friends gathering and holidays, but these difficulties of the profession don’t tone down his strong passion for cooking.
“I always see every day as a challenge. Always trying to [be] better then yesterday,” Chef Hernandez shared his way of making the best of this hard profession.
Yes, the profession of a Chef is not for everyone and it requires quite a few sacrifices not many people are willing to make, but Chef Hernandez advises to everyone dreaming of becoming a Chef to be ready to do those sacrifices, but above all successful Chefs: “really live and love food.”
So what does the future holds for this young Executive Chef? He shares that he has big plans of introducing new menu based on local farm products in both restaurants. Fresh food through support of the local economy is a great way to show his guests how much he cares about what goes onto their plate. Besides this new change in both restaurants, Chef Hernandez wants to change the way people view Mexican cuisine.
“I think it is time for some real Mexican food and to get away from the ordinary Mexican cuisine here,” Chef Hernandez shared his future plans.
Times are changing. Now people pay a lot more attention to what is on their plate. That is why it is important for any Chef to never lose the passion for cooking. Like an artist, a chef shows his passion through the food he plates. Executive Chef Hernandez is an artist who loves what he does and his guests get to enjoy his delicious creations.
Visit both restaurants to enjoy the passionate food of Chef Hernandez. Steventon’s Riverfront is located at 1399 Eagle Ridge Rd., LeClaire, Iowa with a great view of the Mississippi River and elegant dining. Phone number for the restaurant is (563) 289-3600. Website: www.steventons.com
Blue Iguana Mexican Cantina is located at 201 N. Cody Rd., LeClaire, Iowa. Mexican food made form fresh ingredients. The phone number for the restaurant is (563) 729-1015. Website: www.the-blueiguana.com
Photos by Tar & Erika Macias