EKAUNAS. Rodrigo Torres has migrated twice: once from Mexico to the United States and then from there to Lithuania, in Europe, where he started a success story after putting the true mexican flavor in his restaurant.
He lives in Kaunas, the second largest city in the Baltic country, where he founded Agave almost a decade ago, and where, according to important political figures, he eats the best pibil suckling pig in Europe.
In the US he learned the trade of cook and how to manage a restaurant and also met his now wife, originally from Lithuania, who convinced him to migrate once again, but now crossing “the pond”.
interviewed by Excelsior In his restaurant, with garlic in his hands while cooking, Rodrigo acknowledged that the transit from Mexico to the US and then from there to Lithuania was difficult, although the support of his wife has been fundamental.
It’s been difficult, it’s been a bummer. You can’t tell people to eat Mexican food if they don’t know what Mexican food is”, taking into account that although there are restaurants in Lithuania that sell “Mexican food”, they don’t go beyond Tex-Mex.
For many people in Europe, Mexican food is just beans, chiles and a tortilla, lamented the chef. “In other places they offer you a Mexican salad that only has jalapeños and corn. No, well no”.
The Veracruz entrepreneur stressed that the people of the Baltic countries are interested in Mexico and its culture and, despite the violence that prevails in the country, they want to get to know it.
Agave is a restaurant that offers real Mexican food, like chicken with mole. Rodrigo prepares the mole, with its marinades, herbs, and seeds, and it turns out to be an artisanal Mexican dish, accompanied by panela cheese, red rice, and even habanero chili slices, along with tortillas.
The businessman stressed that all products come from Mexico. For example, the tortillas are obtained through a German company.
One of Rodrigo’s successes is the cochinita pibil. According to some Mexican businessmen and diplomats with experience in travel and cooking, this dish is the best of its kind in all of Europe, as some travel from Holland, Denmark or Spain to eat the Yucatecan delicacy.
The Trip Advisor website rates Agave as a “true Mexican food” restaurant, giving it 5 stars in favorable ratings from its diners.
Among his main clients, said the Mexican migrant, are Spanish priests who live in Kaunas. They are “addicted” to Mexican cuisine, he assured.
We have 120 types and brands of tequila, mezcal and even sotol”, he boasted between laughs and showing off his cava, whose image rises when the Mexican flag is present.
The workers who collaborate with Rodrigo are from Lithuania, they do not speak Spanish and he does not speak Lithuanian, but they communicate in English. Gonzalo, from the State of Mexico, is his only Mexican collaborator and he also came to Kaunas for love, since he married a Lithuanian.
I consider that in Lithuania alone there are about 40 Mexicans, maybe more. Most of them have come here for love, because Lithuanians are very beautiful”.
His first trip to the Baltic country was made in 2006, already in love with who is today his partner and mother of his two children: Gabriela and Rodrigo, who speak perfect Lithuanian and Spanish.
Rodrigo, 45, is originally from Suchilapan del Río, a small Veracruz town in the municipality of Jesús Carranza, on the border with Oaxaca, and the birthplace of the Coatzacoalcos River.
With almost a decade in Lithuania, the Veracruz native began his odyssey traveling to the US, where he learned service work.
He learned cooking in Wisconsin, in a town very close to Milwaukee, “there I met my wife who is Lithuanian, from Kaunas.” She proposed to put a Mexican restaurant in Lithuania, “and I said ‘we can try’, and here we are. First we worked in restaurants, then in hotels and the time came for us to open something for ourselves”.
Rodrigo has not traveled to Mexico for many years. His mother passed away seven years ago and, he said, he doesn’t have much to return to, especially now with the political and insecure situation prevailing in the country.
No. I don’t have anywhere to go anymore. I love Mexico, but things are very bad and my mother is no longer here. Someday, but I don’t think I’ll be back for now.”
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