March 2019 Featured Chef: Ruffo Ibarra

March 15, 2019 5 min read


Clement Design® is known around the globe in the chef industry. We not only take pride in providing premium quality chef jackets, but also in the chefs who wear our amazing brand. From outfitting executive & pastry chefs to high-end restaurants, resorts & clubs nationwide, we love to see success stories from our Clement Design USA chefs and businesses.

Chef Ruffo Ibarra grew up in the metropolis of Tijuana, the entrance to the busiest land border crossing on the planet. He enjoyed cooking from the time he was a small boy, cherishing time in the kitchen with his mom. Once he graduated from high school, there was an expectation from his family for his career choice and a chef’s life was not it.

When Ruffo informed his father of his choice, the young 18 year old was met with skepticism but Ruffo was determined to prove that he had a vision for himself. Working without pay at the Grand Hotel by day and Baci in San Diego as a stagiaire by night, the young man worked without complaint until his father recognized the commitment Ruffo had shown through his hard work. He then enrolled for formal training at the Culinary Arts Institute in Tijuana.

With renowned chefs such as Martin San Roman, Javier Plascencia, Benito Molina and Miguel Angel Guerrero as his inspirations, Ruffo set out to become the next generation of Tijuana chefs to showcase the unique cuisine of his home.

He went on to work in the kitchen of Javier Plascencia at Romesco & Cenador de Amos, a two Michelin Star restaurant in Cantabria, Spain. He returned home where he would put his expanded experience to work as a private catering chef.

In 2015, Chef Ruffo opened the doors to Oryx Capital and Nortico the speakeasy 6 months later with his business-minded family, a perfect team balance of creativity and business acumen. The restaurant brings a Cali-Baja fusion to guests with an understanding that the fluid border has greatly influenced the food in this corner on the planet.

When he isn’t running his restaurant, he can be found traveling to showcase his style of cuisine of Northern Baja to new audiences. A 3 month stage in Modena, Italy in the fall of 2017, cooking and learning from Massimo Bottura at Osteria Francescana was a great honor.

Upon his return, Chef Ruffo was presented with the 2017 Promesa Culinaria de Baja California award (Most Promising Chef) and was admitted into the prestigious Vatel Club of Mexico.

Q1: As of 2018 Osteria Francescana had been named as the best restaurant in the World in “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. Was there any kind of pressure that came with working in a 3-star Michelin Restaurant under one of the world’s most prestigious chefs, Massimo Bottura? What was your biggest inspiration, or takeaway from your trip?

A: What inspired me the most was the philosophy of “La Francescana”. EVERYTHING is about the diners experience. From the moment they make their reservation, to why everyone is on time.

I had a very big moment there, and that’s when on my second day, jet lagged, sleeping in a very small room without windows, I saw my phone, and I was late! At Osteria Francescana!!!

I got there 10 min late, and chef de partie Jessica Rosval, took me outside and asked if I knew why we had to be there at 9, and not 9:01 or 9:10, and then said something I never expected “it’s for our customers, it’s so we can have everything on time for them!” Of course after that incident, I was the first one in every day, and understood what the experience at this restaurant was all about.

Q2: You have access to arguably some of the best ingredients: fruits, vegetables, wines, beers, fish and shellfish thanks to your amazing location. It’s clear that these ingredients inspire your Cali-Baja style cuisine, but we’d love to know your process, or what goes into creating a new menu item.

A: It's never simple to create a new menu, but it's fundamentals are always the same 2. It has to be inspired by traditional, comfort or street food, because they trigger the memory, and it has to have local seasonal ingredients. The final part is always open, but overall its always about telling a story.

Q3: We know you like to golf, play guitar, and are a big fan of soccer, what else do you enjoy doing when you have a chance to relax? How do you balance Oryx Capital, Nortico, Family, and all the Philanthropy you’re involved in?

A: I’m a big sports fan, I played football, basketball, track, when I was younger, so my competitive side is always on, but balance is a difficult thing to achieve when your getting into more and more responsibilities every day.

I try to give quality instead of quantity. I think my relationship with my son is key to everything else. If he’s happy, and proud of me, I’m in a good place, but if I’m gaining popularity everywhere except with him, then there’s something to adjust. He’s what keeps me centered.

Q4: What would be your go-to if Papas Con Chorizosuddenly disappeared? What are some of your other favorite comfort foods? Do you have a favorite “must try” craft cocktail at your Nórtico speakeasy?

A: I’d reinvent them! But tacos are a very strong number 2.

I think the reason tacos aren’t number 1 is because papas con chorizo are what I asked my mom to make me every Saturday, so it's close to my heart. And as far as cocktails at Nortico, ask for a Jr. It’s the most elegant mezcal based cocktail, I’ve ever tasted. 

Q5: We know you’ve faced challenges on your journey to become a chef, based on family expectations. What advice to you have to offer to anyone who may be facing the same challenges?

A: Always be honest with yourself.

It sounds easy, but no one knows what we are good at, bad at, like and dislike more than ourselves. Since what we do for a living takes most of our time, wouldn’t you invest everything in what you’re passionate about, and know in your gut you could accomplish? There’s no greater motivator than passion. 

If you're interested in taking a deeper dive into chef Ruffo Ibarra's speakeasy: Nortico or his restaurant: Oryx Capital follow the links above. You can also follow along on their Instagram pages (Nortico & Oryx Capital


Thank you so much to chef Ruffo Ibarra for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us! We highly recommend you check out chef Ibarra's instagram account, he takes part in a ton of philanthropy and has many great events at his restaurant (not to mention all the beautiful food). 

We also hope you find inspiration in our featured chef stories. These are everyday people who found a passion for cooking and followed that passion to success. Success, of course, doesn't come without hard work, which is why we love to follow talented and diligent chefs like Ruffo Ibarra. As is tradition we love to offer a 10% discount when we feature a chef. Use code RUFFO10 to save 10% on your next order through us at Clement Design. You can pair this code with an additional 10% you save when you order two chef jackets. 

Let us know what you think about chef Ruffo Ibarra's story by commenting in the section below!

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