original j’s chef and "chicken master" andrew enrique cisneros photo by izaiah johnson

Ones to Watch 2021 // Andrew Enrique Cisneros

Andrew Enrique Cisneros just wanted to have a good time. “I almost dropped out of high school,” he said. “I wanted to cook and party. I got into the industry because I wanted to party.” Born in St. Louis but visiting family in Peru often, where he enjoyed traditional dishes he could only get down there, Cisneros already had a connection to food he found meaningful. He’d grown up fascinated by watching his mom and aunt cook, and many of his friends were already cooking for a living. 

Cisneros did finish high school and went on to culinary school, during which he took a job at Jim Edmonds Steakhouse. Then it was on to the St. Louis Club, where things started to get serious. The club’s esteemed chef, Pierre Chambrin, ran a kitchen of predominantly French cooks, so Cisneros spent his nights learning the Tournée cut and listening to his colleagues yell at each other in their own language. 

original j’s chef and "chicken master" andrew enrique cisneros // photo by izaiah johnson

Next it was an executive chef position at The Copper Pig followed by an onslaught of fine-dining kitchen jobs: Ben Poremba’s Elaia, Mike Randolph’s Privado, Gerard Craft’s Dia’s Room at Cinder House. While at The Copper Pig, Cisneros started experimenting with pollo a la brasas, a Peruvian whole chicken dish served with steak fries and multiple dairy-based sauces. “I was obsessed with pollo a la brasas,” he said. “It’s the most consumed dish in Peru for every class.” When fate took him back to Randolph last spring, this time at Original J’s Tex-Mex, the conditions were right for him to perfect his version of the dish. 

He tested new ideas daily, making small changes in seasonings and the kind of beer he used. Though classic pollo a la brasas uses five ingredients (oregano, beer, lime, garlic and mirasol, a dried yellow chile pepper), Cisneros’ versions used as many as 15 ingredients. “I was looking at it more like a science,” he explained. He’d had this food many times in Peru, but because the dish’s secrets are so coveted, he’d never scored the perfect recipe. “Unless you’re in the family, you’ll never get the recipe,” he explained. Now, according to his family, who visit the restaurant often, both the chicken and its sauces are up to par. Former boss Ben Poremba agreed: “I think it’s delicious, it’s transportive, it’s authentic,” he said. “That chicken should be a staple forever.” 

By 28, Cisneros has already undergone a full cosmopolitan odyssey that’s taken him to a point where he can focus on his favorite dish and make it his own. By design, his pollo a la brasas delivers waves of deep flavor and tradition; if it brings him his own brick-and-mortar soon, which is his goal, that would also be great. But for now, he’s figured out how to party in his own way.

Tags : People