The MEXICO Report
MERIDA, Yucatán, Mexico — Seven of Mexico’s most renowned chefs will travel to Mérida, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3 to participate in the First Festival of New Yucatecan Cuisine, K’óoben. The Maya word k’óoben, translates as “kitchen”, i.e. cuisine. The festival celebrates the ingredients and flavors found only in Yucatecan cuisine, which is rooted in Maya, European, Caribbean and Mexican culinary traditions. The area’s distinctive cuisine is partially attributed to its isolation for centuries from the rest of Mexico. Participating guest chefs include Patricia Quintana, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, Benito Molina, Jair Tellez, Enrique Olvera, Paola Garduño and Alejandro Ruiz.
Departing from normal celebrity chef events, each of the chefs will put his or her signature spin on one four-course dinner during the week using a pre-determined list of ingredients indigenous to the Yucatán. A chef-hosted dinner will be presented in one Mérida restaurant for six nights. The only exception – a gala lunch on Sunday, November 28th created by Patricia Quintana, at Hacienda Xcanatun, a restored 18th century plantation. Each meal costs $60 per person, or 650 pesos.
Additional activities include a two-day symposium featuring guest chefs and culinary experts on December 1 & 2 at the Unimayab University. Topics include Yucatecan Products with a Touch of Chile; What is Behind Creative Minds in the Kitchen?; The Aromas of the Mayab; The Evolution of Yucatecan Cuisine; and much more. Series tickets cost $20 per person (250 pesos).
Complementing the festival is an art exhibit at MACAY Museum (The Yucatán Contemporary Art Museum) entitled “Gastronomic Esthetic, Edible Art”. The exhibit will feature abstract contemporary pictures painted with natural colors extracted from seeds, roots and plants indigenous to the Yucatán. Each of the pictures will be accompanied by the chefs’ interpretations of the painting made from actual food products. Food for the eye and the stomach.
Chef visits to local farms and ranches where sea cucumbers and baby octopus; chiles; white-tail deer; hairless black pig; and other organic produce and animals are raised will showcase the Yucatan’s dedication to sustainability and the area’s interest in catering to the farm-to-table ethos.
Presenting sponsors for the event are Merida’s Culinaria Gastronomy School, a top private training ground for future chefs, and Nectar Food and Wine Restaurant. Many other local businesses have also put their support behind the event.
Where to Stay
Hacienda Xcanatun (Tall Stone House in Maya) is set on the outskirts of Mérida, 10 minutes from the historic downtown area. This exquisitely restored 18th century, sisal plantation offers guests a convenient, upscale location for enjoying all of the festival’s activities. The Hacienda is especially honored to welcome the festival’s two female chefs, Patricia Quintana and Paola Garduño, who will be making Xcanatun their unofficial headquarters during the gala week.
With only 18 suites styled with Carib-colonial, hand-carved furnishings and antiques, and a garden of manicured jungle, Xcanatun delivers serenity, relaxation and fine service. Facilities include a full-service spa; two freshwater, swimming pools; and a gourmet restaurant, ranked among the top 50 in Mexico.
Hacienda Xcanatun is part of Mexico Boutique Hotels.