First Bites with Horacio, Moro's New Chef

By Sophia Perlstein
Sep 25, 2019

Santa Lucia, a small town in Canelones, Uruguay, is one you’ve likely never heard of. Rio Santa Lucia flows along the northwestern limits of the city, a playground and local fishing jaunt for its 18,000 inhabitants. For Horacio Dardano, Moro’s newest Executive Chef, early memories are set amidst this backdrop. 

“We would fish here often, mostly anguilas and bogres. It was more about coming together than what we brought home.” Despite what was (or wasn’t) caught on those hazy afternoons, there was always plenty to go around. Small towns have an uncanny way of bringing everyone together in celebration of a day well spent. 

At the age of nine, while many were just getting the hang of a new sport or learning how to dress, Horacio was in his mother’s kitchen, perfecting a classic “torta de naranja”,  a dessert which he’d later share with the rest of Santa Lucia. 

“It was a milestone for me. I’ll never forget that feeling of accomplishment as I watched my parents take their first bite.” The recipe, his mother’s, has accompanied him across borders, a full-proof way to break the ice with friends old and new. It may shock few to learn that this was the beginning of his life-long love affair with cooking. 

A former sax musician, Horacio decided to leave Uruguay to focus on his culinary career with less distractions. An open invitation to cook in Tulum was all he needed. Formerly trained at Uruguay’s gastronomical college, he credits Mexico for truly finessing (and defining) his culinary style. 

Now at the helm of Moro at Habitas | Tulum, he charms our palettes and brings us together with the same youthful candor he honed in his early years. Only this time, locally-grown ingredients like chile serrano and lima yucateca are given a platform on which to shine. 

“Food is the heartbeat of Mexico. It’s incredible to witness and be a part of pre-hispanic traditions upheld by a new generation of chefs.” For Horacio, access to this ancestral lineage of traditions is a privilege. When he’s not in our open-fire kitchen, he’s visiting towns like Oxkutzcab and X-Can, digging pits in the ground where pork, covered in banana leaves, are tucked inside atop fiery stones and wood where they’ll roast overnight.

These ancient techniques have enticed an emerging group of chefs (and diners) like Horacio who seek to expand their knowledge of authentic Mexican cuisine. Unlike the formality of Europe’s fine-dining scene, Tulum invites guests to break bread over candlelight, surrounded by nature and open-fire cooking.

“The magic of Habitas and Moro lies in their philosophy. They’ve created a space where self-expression is encouraged. I find that guests arrive with an open mind, ready to experience all that we have to offer.”

“These techniques don’t exist overseas. This is next-level rustic gastronomy. From hand-grinding corn to make masa or combining a myriad of spices to create mole sauce, it’s an experience for all your senses.” 

As he sets the stage for what’s to come, Horacio’s menu will combine past and present. Moro’s Moroccan influences will dance amongst local, sustainably sourced ingredients like hoja santa shrimp and Yucatecan pork. Using food as the vehicle for cultural awareness, each dish will educate the curious and facilitate conversation and connection at the dinner table. 

“The magic of Habitas and Moro lies in their Philosophy. They’ve created a space where self-expression is encouraged. I find that guests arrive with an open mind, ready to experience all that we have to offer.” Expect to satisfy cravings you didn’t know you had.