Chef James Flowers + Pork Belly "Al Pastor"

Chef James Flowers

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Sous Chef, Ciclo at the Four Seasons Austin
Follow Chef Flowers on Instagram

RSH: How long have you been with Richard Sandoval Hospitality?
JF: One year.

RSH: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
JF: About a year into my first kitchen job. Everything felt like it clicked.

RSH: How do you get your inspiration?
JF: Eating and imagining. Usually at the same time!

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RSH: Best cooking tip for a beginner chef just getting into the business?
JF: Be patient.

RSH: Who in the food world do you most admire?
JF: I really admire what David Chang was able to create; especially how he turned many conventions on their head, and in NYC no less!

RSH: Astrological Sign?
JF: Capricorn.

RSH: Hometown?
JF: Nowhere, Alabama

RSH: Guilty Pleasure?
JF: Luby’s

RSH: Drink of Choice?
JF: Coffee

RSH: One-word description of yourself?
JF: Observer

RSH: Favorite 90’s jam?
JF: Where It’s At by Beck

RSH: Favorite place you have traveled?
JF: Tuscany

RSH: Top of your bucket list?
JF: Macchu Picchu with my Family

RSH: Last Meal?
JF: A big spread of Texas Barbecue with lots of fatty brisket and jalapeno cheddar sausage

RSH: Do you have a favorite food to cook with?
JF: Pork Belly

RSH: Favorite sports team?
JF: Alabama Crimson Tide

RSH: One thing you would take on a deserted island with you?
JF: A big Mortar and Pestle

RSH: A movie you can watch over and over?
JF: Ghostbusters

RSH: Favorite kitchen gadget?
JF: Smoking gun

RSH: Favorite cookbook?
JF: Mission Chinese

RSH: What's the next big thing in the food world?
JF: Hopefully Middle Eastern Food

RSH: What recipe are you sharing with us today? Why do you love this recipe?
JF: Pork Belly “Al Pastor” - Much like tacos of the same name, this dish hits every part of your palate all at once, over and over. That’s my favorite aspect of Latin food in general- every great dish manages to combine salty, sweet, acidic, bitter and umami, along with a fantastic array of textures.

Pork Belly “Al Pastor”

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For the Adobo:

  • 5 Pork Belly, Skin off

  • 4 oz aji panca paste (available at Latin food stores)

  • 4 guajillo chiles, deseeded and toasted

  • ¼ cup toasted almonds

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • ¼ cup canola oil

  • ½ cup sherry vinegar

  • 1 tbsp kosher salt

  • 2 tsp black pepper

  • 2 tsp sugar

For the Compote:

  • ¼ of one pineapple, peeled and cut into ½” thick rounds

  • ½ cup white vinegar

  • 1 tbsp sugar

  • ½ tbsp kosher salt

  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed

  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground

  • ½ tsp smoked paprika

For the Salsa Verde:

  • 4 medium tomatillos, quartered

  • 1 avocado

  • I half bunch cilantro, chopped

  • 1 serrano pepper, sliced

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • Juice of 2 limes

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • ½ tbsp kosher salt

For the Tortilla Soil:

  • 2 cups Blue corn tortilla chips

  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

  • 2 tsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • ½ tsp agave nectar


This recipe will be most successful if started a day before. Give yourself most of the day to prep, cure, marinate and slow roast; it will make finishing the dish for your guests seem almost too easy.

  1. Score pork belly in a cross-hatch pattern on the fat side and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.

  2. Prepare your grill with wood or hardwood lump charcoal. Ideal temp will be around 300F for slow roasting the belly. Meanwhile, allow pork to cure in the refrigerator for about two hours (this will allow seasoning to penetrate meat).

  3. In a medium pot, begin making adobo: first heat oil over medium heat for about 4 minutes.

  4. Add garlic and toast until lightly browned, then add almonds and aji panca and toast for another minute.

  5. Deglaze with sherry vinegar and add remainder of ingredients. Cook for about 15 minutes at a simmer until chiles and garlic are soft.

  6. Transfer to blender and puree until smooth.

  7. Remove from blender and cool in the refrigerator. Once cold, rub adobo all over pork belly until completely covered.

  8. Sear pork belly on grill directly over fire for 2 minutes each side. Remove from heat and wrap in foil.

  9. Meanwhile, grill pineapple slices over direct heat until lightly charred. Reserve and cool.

  10. Place foil wrapped pork back on grill, but away from direct heat (ambient temp should be around 300-320F). Cover grill and allow to roast for about 3 hours, or until meat is tender, but still retains structure.

  11. Remove from foil and place between two small sheetpans in the fridge with a heavy object to weigh the top pan down and “press” the belly.

  12. To finish the pineapple compote, dice grilled pineapple slices into ½ inch cubes and place in a medium sauce pan.

  13. Add remainder of ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium heat until liquid has reduced by half. Taste- sauce should have a pleasing balance of sweet/sour. Adjust seasoning as necessary and reserve.

  14. For the salsa verde, simply combine all ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth. Again, taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit.

  15. The last bit of prep will be the tortilla soil: Using your food processor, add all ingredients and pulse several times to achieve a coarse “crumble” texture. Soil should clump together a bit due to the olive oil and agave nectar.

To Finish:

First, you will portion the belly- Each guest will get roughly 3.5 ounces of protein. Cut the belly lengthwise (with the grain) in half. Then, cut ½” slices (against the grain) from each half. You’ll be left with 2” X 2” squares that are half an inch thick. Each guest will get 3 of these. To finish, place a large cast iron pan over high heat. When it begins to produce light wisps of smoke, add a thin film of vegetable oil. Sear all pieces of pork belly for about 2-3 minutes a side, or until golden brown. Place on a paper towel lined sheet pan to absorb excess oil.

Arrange plates by placing a generous dollop of salsa verde down first, then adding each slice of belly like three shingles. Place a bit of compote atop each slice, then sprinkle tortilla soil over everything. For a little added freshness, garnish with fresh cilantro and thinly sliced red onion