A Day in the Life of Carlos Gaytan

Photographer Sandy Noto followed Tzuco’s Executive Chef and Owner, Carlos Gaytan, around his adopted hometown of Chicago. The first Mexican chef to earn a Michelin Star and a former Top Chef contestant, Gaytan is determined to serve delicious, authentic food to everyone in the Chicago community—no matter their circumstances.

8:15 A.M.

Gaytan charges up with French press coffee before heading to his restaurant Tzuco, located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.


9 A.M.

Gaytan looks through and confirms the list of ingredients he needs to purchase for the restaurant before it opens.


9:30 A.M.

Good food is for everyone. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaytan has been spending his mornings prepping and packing meals for donation through the World Central Kitchen (WCK). As of July 2020, more than nineteen million fresh meals have been prepared by chefs like Gaytan and distributed to communities in need by the WCK.


10:00 A.M.

On the move! Gaytan stops by Whole Foods to pick up some beets, tomatoes, and other fresh produce for the restaurant.


11:00 A.M.

Gaytan arranges for the drop-off of the various meal packages he put together for the World Central Kitchen.


11:55 A.M.

Gaytan drops by the local restaurant depot to pick up sugar, mascarpone, meat, and other ingredients that he and his team need at Tzuco.


1:33 P.M.

“Homework time,” as Gaytan puts it, is filled with emails and other computer work critical to the restaurant’s operations.


2:00 P.M.

Tzuco’s business day begins in earnest, as Gaytan and his staff begin prepping the various appetizers, entrees, and desserts that have earned the restaurant rave reviews from community members and critics alike.


2:30 P.M.

A fresh octopus sits on a kitchen tray, waiting to be transformed into one of Tzuco’s famous dishes.


3:45 P.M.

Gaytan scoops out a spicy filling of fish, tomato, onion, garlic, and thyme, which is stuffed between two squid ink tortillas as a “pescadilla.”


4:00 P.M.

Like any team leader, Gaytan ensures that his team members have what they need to succeed. Throughout the restaurant’s prep period, he can be seen sharpening knives, sweeping floors, and (as seen here) organizing the kitchen’s many trays of food to ensure an efficient workflow.


4:15 P.M.

Tzuco is officially open for business! Gaytan and his team wait for the first customers to arrive. They have arranged for social distancing measures for all diners, so some customers will eat outside while others will dine indoors at carefully distanced tables.

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