Demystifying the South American Grocery Store

Ethnic markets with food from every corner of the planet dot many a street corner in New York, so there’s no excuse for eating the same old food day in and day out. In that spirit of culinary exploration, we bring you a series of multimedia features, in which our writers visit ethnic grocery stores with “guides” who know each cuisine to get the lowdown on typical ingredients, unfamiliar produce and condiments and how to eat or cook them. We ask the rookie questions so you don’t have to.

Next stop: Mi Tierra Supermarket, a pan-South American supermarket in Jackson Heights, Queens. Our “guide,” chef Paul Gilces, grew up in Ecuador and now lives in East Elmhurst, Queens.

Gilces, 29, came to New York a decade ago, to pursue a business career. After managing a firm that imported flowers for several years, he decided to focus on his growing interest in cooking.

Since graduating from the French Culinary Institute in 2007, he has worked in upscale restaurants and executive dining rooms throughout the city, with stints at Blue Water Grill, Manzo, Scarpetta and JP Morgan Chase.

“I’ve worked in Italian cuisine and French cuisine before—and Spanish cuisine,” Gilces says. “I think the Spanish is one of the best and [most] flavorful cuisines.”

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