Style + Living

Chef Rene Ortiz & Chef Laura Sawicki from La Condesa

November 08, 2011

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I honor tradition but I like to fuck things up a little bit. – Chef Rene Ortiz


I was invited over to La Condesa, Austin’s premier upscale Mexican restaurant, to interview Executive Chef Rene Ortiz and Executive Pastry Chef Laura Sawicki.

La Condesa.

Chef Laura Sawicki

Originally a graduate of the Colorado College with a degree in art history, Laura had never considered becoming a chef. However, influenced by her grandmother’s natural baking instinct, as well as the frequent “food adventures” she shared with her mother, both her biggest inspiration and biggest supporter, a life in kitchens seemed rather inevitable.

Upon leaving Marlow in 2008, Laura’s relationship with food changed forever. While working at Brooklyn’s Paloma, another in a handful of Brooklyn restaurants feverishly aiming at establishing a small community in a large metropolis, she met Rene Ortiz. Laura and Rene quickly became lifelong friends and culinary counterparts. They encouraged one another to evolve and expand their shared, seasonal approach to food, using only the freshest ingredients possible to create simple yet bold dishes that linger on the palate.


Chef Rene Ortiz

A love for travel, Chef Rene wanted to have a global approach toward his restaurant. Mexico City has a lot of diversified people, especially Jews.
Chef Rene wanted to give La Condesa a sophisticated and fine dining perspective versus the typical traditional Mexican cuisine. Revolving Mexican stereotypes, he showcases innovation and progress of Mexican cuisine like Fresh and new American cuisine. At La Condesa you won’t find tamales, enchiladas, and carne gusada, but instead items like razor clams. Razor clams are not common to the Mexico region but Chef Rene wants to bring a modern and fun twist at his restaurant.

Chef Rene stressed to me the importance teamwork within a restaurant and a partnership such as between Chef Laura and himself. Having to work ninety to a hundred hours a week, there needs to be not only a support system but also a friendship between an executive chef and a pastry chef.

It was a pleasure to sit down, enjoy their delicious food, and talk to both Chef Rene and Laura. If you want to read more in dept about the dishes at La Condesa, visit A Taste of Koko.


Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.