For this year’s Reader Key Ingredient Cook-Off, we asked some of Chicago’s top chefs to create a dish to honor a person who influenced their cooking. The exercise stirred many kitchen memories.

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Chef: Carlos Gaytan

Restaurant: Mexique

Esquites de camaron

Mentor: Mexico

“I choose to do the esquites, or the elotes, because of summertime. It’s very traditional in Mexico, it brings families together. You find it everywhere, not just in the regions. Here in Chicago as well, when it’s summertime you see a lot of people selling elotes with little carts. I remember when my father used to take us to the field [in Mexico] and buy elotes, and you roast it right there, whatever style you want to do it. We’re going to incorporate some shrimp—summertime, something cold, something chilled. Chipotle aioli, then chile powder with lime juice and lime zest, a little tangy.”  v