Chef Oscar Aguilar, the chef at both Mackie’s Biergarten and The Station, grew up in El Salvador, and influences from his childhood mix with local West Virginia ingredients to create his unique cooking style.
How did you get your start in cooking?
I am from El Salvador, so I started out learning the traditions from my home country. My mother was a well-known cook in town. She and my grandmother would often cook for church events and other gatherings. Beginning around age 10 or 12, I would help them prepare food for these events, and I learned a lot from them when we would cook together. My mother also ran the cafeteria at the school in town, so I would go and help her during my break from classes. I learned many of the traditional techniques by cooking with her.
How did moving to West Virginia influence your cooking style?
Coming to West Virginia influenced my cooking style in that it presented me with many new techniques to learn and many new ingredients to work with. West Virginia has a lot of cool local, wild ingredients – like ramps – that I had never worked with before. When I would be introduced to a new ingredient, I would often connect it to an ingredient I worked with in El Salvador, so I could apply techniques from El Salvador to this new ingredient. I would also use new techniques that I was learning from working in kitchens in the States to prepare ingredients from El Salvador. The two styles and cultures really work well together.
What can you tell us about “The Station,” the restaurant that you are in the process of opening?
The Station is a new restaurant that I will be opening early next year. It will be a farm-to-table concept restaurant. I really want to take advantage of the fantastic wild ingredients that West Virginia has to offer, while also incorporating the produce from West Virginia farmers. I’ll be putting my special touch on all the ingredients to come up with a very unique menu.