Hot Chef: Guillermo Pernot brought Latin food to Philly

Guillermo Pernot is making sure you eat your plantains. Guillermo Pernot is making sure you eat your plantains.

Free up your Tuesdays, people, because Cuba Libre has recently introduced a Tapas Tuesdays promo. For $27 you can taste all the tapas the “nuevo Cubano” restaurant has to offer. We caught up with Guillermo Pernot, the Argentina-born chef responsible not only for this old City hotspot but for the once loved, now closed ¡Pasión! Restaurant. No big deal or anything, but he’s the guy who’s usually credited with bringing Latin dining to Philly.

Whose idea was it to start Tapas Tuesdays, and how long will they run?
We decided as a group at the restaurant that we wanted something interesting to happen. We think that this is a way for people to experience what Cuba Libre is all about. It depends how successful it is, but we’re keeping it around at least through the summer.

You opened Cuba Libre in 2001. How have you seen Second Street and Old City change?
Cuba Libre has been there for 12 years and it’s a pillar of that part of town. It’s helped to shape the food and entertainment in the neighborhood.

How has the food scene changed in Philly since you’ve been here?
It’s come a long way. When I first moved here there were a few restaurants like Le Bec Fin and the Fish Market. Now you can go anywhere in the city and find major chefs like Morimoto and Garces. We have changed the cuisine scene. When I first started cooking in Philadelphia no one knew what a plantain was. I was the first making Latin food.

You live outside the city, right? What are you doing for fun on your days off?
Yes, I live in Wynnewood. I’m constantly working, moving from one restaurant to another. When I’m home, though, we invite friends over. We built a beautiful kitchen and our friends come over to cook together. The majority of my time is spent around food.

Have you been to any good summer concerts or festivals this year?
No. I love to go to concerts but it’s hard to find the time. The Rolling Stones were in town and I couldn’t get out to see them so they came to see me. We had a party for them at the restaurant. It was so cool to see Mick Jagger walk through the kitchen.

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