By Gabby Richman / Photo by Mark Morgan
Damian Del Castillo began his culinary career as a dishwasher, working his way up over the years. Now, he is the chef of the Phoenix and Ahwatukee locations of Pomegranate Cafe, known for its vegetarian and vegan options.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I always knew I wanted to be a cook – It’s in my blood. My family has always been dedicated to that line of work. My great-grandmother was a professional cook, and a few of my uncles cook very well, not professionally, but definitely have “the flavor.”
To you, food is….
A little mysterious, a necessity, a knowledge.
The one ingredient you probably use most is:
When you’re not cooking, where would we find you?
When I’m not cooking you will find me with my family.
What food is your guilty pleasure?
Pizza with ketchup.
Favorite food memory:
My favorite food memory is when I went to one of the Pujol restaurants and I tried a dish called Mole Madre which had been cooking for over a year, and that mole reminded me of my mother’s mole.
Most adventurous food you’ve tried or cooked:
I haven’t tried anything that has scared me yet!
What is your biggest challenge when making items vegan or vegetarian?
The more I work with different ingredients, especially vegetables, the more I learn and expand my tools in making dishes. I continue to learn each day.
How do you make dishes diet restriction-friendly (vegan or vegetarian) without compromising flavor?
My foundation is always Mexican cuisine, which features mostly vegetables. When prepared correctly, we can bring out a lot of flavor from the vegetables for the dishes. For example, roasting vegetables brings out unique flavors from the juices and oils that are released in the process.
Anything new on the horizon for Pomegranate Cafe’s menu this season?
For the spring, we will have a new menu for the bar with interesting tapas-style dishes that are 100 percent vegan.
Pomegranate Cafe, 5555 N. 7th St., Phoenix; 602.354.5314; www.pomegranatecafe.com.