New chef revamps Babaloo menu

The kitchen of a relatively new restaurant in Georgetown, Babaloo Cocina Latina, is now in the charge of a new executive chef: Humberto Morales, a culinary expert decorated with two New York Times “Excellent” ratings who promises to bring contemporary continental comfort to an up-and-coming Latin American menu.

From a young age, Morales was fascinated by the art of preparing and serving food. He learned to cook as a child at his mother’s deli in their native Chile, where he also spent ample time dressing flesh in his father’s butcher shop. He immigrated to the United States 18 years ago and got his start washing dishes for Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, N.Y.

Two weeks into Morales’ first stateside job, an opportunity presented itself when one of the prep cooks called in sick.

“The owner asked me if I could help,” said Morales, who obliged his superior and performed well enough to be kept in the kitchen full-time.

One day, the same man offered to help put Morales through culinary school. With that help, he graduated in 2002 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. After an internship at Manhattan eatery Babbo, Morales was hired as a line cook by nearby seafood restaurant Oceana. Thus began this chef’s career.

Morales moved to Connecticut in 2006, working first as a chef at Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich and then as head chef of Tuscan in New Canaan. Both restaurants were given a rating of “Excellent” by the New York Times.

Before joining Babaloo three months ago, Morales last worked at Naughty Water Whiskey Bar and Grill in Black Rock, Bridgeport.


Part of the reason Morales was hired, he said, was to make certain improvements to the menu.

“Before I joined Babaloo,” he said, “the menu was starting to look a bit like that of a Mexican tapas-style restaurant.”

But Morales holds that serving Mexican tapas is a vast departure from Babaloo’s original design as a restaurant for cocina Latina, or Latin cuisine. Now that he has been brought on board, changes are being made to ensure the flavors of the continent shine through what Morales sees as having been an excess of rice and beans, sides that are not as central to Latin American cuisine as the inhabitants of English-speaking nations might think.

“As Latinos, we don’t eat just rice and beans. In reality, we use more spinach, roasted tomatoes, arugula and baby kale.”

Which of these ingredients Morales uses, however, “depends on what we have locally,” he said.

Whenever possible, Morales said, Babaloo seeks to buy ingredients from local vendors.

“I also try not to use too many ingredients in a single dish,” he added. “As a result, your palate can better taste each individual flavor, because the flavors are not competing so much for your attention.”

According to Morales, while most chefs cram six to seven ingredients into any given dish, he prides himself in his ability to make do with an average of four or five.

“You don’t have to overcompensate with too many ingredients,” he continued. “In other words, less is more.”

Morales also designed the special menu for Babaloo’s participation in the Wilton Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 annual Fall Restaurant Week. He created a fixed-price experience that featured two courses and dessert for $24.95.

“I just want to get back to my roots,” Morales said. “Babaloo is going to be the place where I can express myself.”

Babaloo Cocina Latina is at 991 Danbury Road, Georgetown.