Highlights: Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival

    Highlights: Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival
    Courtesy Cancun-Riviera Maya Food and Wine Festival

    The 2014 Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival, held at locations throughout the spectacularly sun-drenched resort city, was a whirlwind event. Following four days of tastings, dinners, chef interviews and cooking demos – and a week to reflect on them – we summarized some of our favorite moments. Below, insights and highlights from Mexico’s premiere culinary gathering.

    Acknowledgement of and excitement over the proliferation of Mexican wines

    Mexican wines were on the minds (and in the mouths) of almost everyone at the festival, with much of the buzz about its newfound popularity in Mexico and at international events like the recent Baja Meets NY Wine and Food Festival. Just ten years ago it was “unheard of” said chef Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain, to drink Mexican wines in or outside of the country. Today, Beristain proudly reports that more than 80% of wine sold at Pangea, his upscale restaurant in the posh Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia, is Mexican. 

    Chef Daniel Boulud sharing design secrets behind his restaurants

    The copper pots at DBGB in New York weren’t purchased at William Sonoma. They were gifted to Boulud by fellow culinary luminaries, among them Chef Ferran Adria of el bulli fame. According to Boulud, he nudged the gifting along by pointing out that he knew the chefs didn’t use every pot they kept in their kitchen. Additionally, the images on the walls at Bar Boulud in New York are by a Brazilian artist and personal friend of the chef. Each image represents a wine served at Bar Boulud that was quality approved at a multi-night tasting hosted by the chef and artist. What remained in each wine bottle at the end of each evening was splattered on paper and then digitally rendered, resulting in a series of oenological Rorschach-esque works that combine to form the rare and captivating collection of art on display at the popular NYC wine bar.

    Chef Aquiles Chavez’s flamboyant fedora and flavorful food

    At the “Taste the New World” Dinner and Culinary Journey the Mexican chef donned his signature fedora and handlebar mustache while serving up Pressed Pork Rind and Octopus Sopecitos and Tuna and Pork Rind Tostadas. Both dishes were fresh and balanced, highlighting each ingredient’s individual flavor while simultaneously combining them in a perfect single bite. We’re headed to Chavez’s La Fisheria next time we’re in Playa del Carmen and Houston.

    Chef Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain commenting on the new Mexican chef

    “Twenty-five years ago, if you ended up in cooking, you did it because you had no choices. Today, Mexicans are doing it for passion,” said Beristain, adding, “I don’t doubt that the best Mexican chefs are yet to come.”

    Chatting with Dale Talde about the importance of being earnest

    The former Top Chef contestant and owner of popular Brooklyn restaurants Pork Slope and Talde (try his Yuzu Guacamole if you’re ever at the latter; it’s out of this world) said that while guest chef spots are fun and can be lucrative, he won’t endorse a product he can’t stand behind. Last year, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, Talde spearheaded Taste 4 the Philippines, a benefit dinner whose proceeds went to typhoon victims, proving that he doesn’t just talk the talk.

    Chef Josefina SantaCruz explaining her desire to bring Asian cuisine to Mexico

    “You can get good Asian food in New York, in other places,” said SantaCruz, “but in Mexico it was very expensive and exotic.” That’s why, she said, she opened Sesame, which brings Eastern flavors to Mexico City.

    Chef Normand Laprise discussing the benefits of slow food in a fast world

    The French Canadian chef captivated and delighted the audience at the Star Chefs Press Conference when he said, “We have no time to take time to do things that take time to do.”

    About the Author
    Amanda Cargill
    , Food Content Director
    Amanda is the Food Content Director for Latina Media Ventures.