Victor Albisu was appointed chef de cuisine at BLT Steak DC nearly two years ago. With a Cuban father and a Peruvian mother who were both from “very intense cooking cultures,” and summers spent helping out at his family’s restaurants in Miami, Albisu seemed predestined for a culinary career. Yet, at one point in his life, he was headed in a completely different direction. Then his career path took an unexpected turn, and he made his way back into the kitchen. Creative and always evolving his skills, he is definitely at his happiest there.
What are some of your favorite childhood food memories?
I started cooking at a very young age. My grandfather was a baker in Cuba. You could find me at a very young age standing on milk crates or telephone books to watch him make empanadas. I was always very involved. I used to go to Miami every summer to help out in the family business. I’d press Cuban sandwiches, brew coffee, or make croquetas. I guess it could have been seen as child labor anywhere else, but I enjoyed it too much to consider it work!
So you always knew you wanted to continue the tradition?
Yes, but at first I didn’t take it seriously; I never opened my eyes to it as a career. I studied international relations, I was very much into political science, and I worked in international development after I graduated from college.
Then what happened?
One day I woke up and realized that I was sitting in a cubicle, staring at a computer, and I wanted to shake it off. So I did. I had just bought a house, so I sold it; same with my car. I even broke up with my fiancée! Then I moved to Paris to learn how to really cook. A lot of people thought I was crazy!
Who is your biggest influence in the kitchen?
My grandfather—he still means the world to me, and I find inspiration in his memory. He died when I left for college, so he never really got to see me cook. I try to honor him in the kitchen by being as creative as I can.