In the last year, it seems, the Yucatan has begun to show up on the map of the culinary world. Yucatan has always had a unique cuisine, but up until recently, the rest of Mexico has stolen the cooking show.
Who can say how it started? Was it the great Yucatecan restaurant Chichen Itzá in Los Angeles, run by transplanted Yucatecans? Was it the Los Dos Cooking School, run by transplanted New Yorkers? Whether it was Yucatecans moving to big American cities or big city Americans moving to the Yucatan, it was only a matter of time.
A few month’s ago, the Working Gringos were approached by a Belgian TV show, coming to the Yucatan to explore the food (and the soccer, apparently). Then we discovered that Rick Bayless, probably the most famous American chef who specializes in Mexican food, was devoting his entire fifth season of his TV show on PBS to his exploration of the food in the Yucatan. Just the other day, we saw an article in the Los Angeles Times about where to find great cochinita and how this new taste sensation was sweeping the city.
So it is no surprise, then, that Merida is beginning to attract the attention of some world-class chefs.
We reviewed our dinner at Nectar awhile back, relating how happy we were that it seemed to have regained it’s status as one of Merida’s finest restaurants. Apparently, the owner and chef, Robert Solis, has spent some of his culinary education traveling the world. And in the process, he has befriended a man, Rene Redzepi, who is the head chef at one of Copenhagen’s leading restaurants, Noma, which was recently named the 15th best restaurant in the world on the S. Pellegrino list of World’s Best Restaurants.
Señor Redzepi grew up in Denmark and summered in Macedonia. He has spent his formative culinary years working at world-class restaurants such as French Laundry (#4 in 2007) in Napa, California and El Bulli (#1 in 2007) in Spain. In his home country, he specializes in rediscovering and reintroducing traditional natural foods of the area into his cuisine. His menu includes delicacies like Turbot in Mead Sauce and Seared Lobster with Tapioca and Elderberries.
He has learned from the best and is apparently busy becoming one of them. Rene Redzepi is the winner of the 2006 Food and Fun Chef of the Year. He is an ambassador for his cuisine, which he calls The New Nordic Kitchen and stories about him have appeared in publications such as Optimum, L’officiel Voyage, Gambero Rosso, Madame Figaro, Vin & Bar, Eat, Gastro, Telegraph Magazine, Gourmet and Bon Appetit. Not only that, but in a city (Copenhagen) that has 8 Michelin-rated restaurants (each with one star), his is the only one with two Michelin stars, one awarded in 2005 and one just awarded in 2007.
You could say Señor Redzepi’s star is definitely rising.
And now, he’s coming to Merida to cook for a few of us. And not just cook. He hopes to engage in activities that will help promote a new philosophy of using natural ingredients, according to his press release. We don’t think this is a new philosophy, but we heartily support the idea. He also hopes to motivate small food producers in the area to work with chefs, and to help invite a new generation of chefs to help turn Yucatan into a gastronomic destination.
On the 12th and 13th of May, Rene Redzepi and Roberto Solis will cook a nine-course tasting menu at Nectar, beginning at 9 PM. The meal can be purchased with wine ($2500 MN per person) or without ($1800 MN per person). The menu is being billed as La Nueva Cocina Yucateca (The New Yucatecan Kitchen). We look forward to seeing what he does with habanero chiles!
If you are interested in being one of the privileged few who will get to savor this unique food, you are encouraged to make a reservation (information below). But even if you won’t be there, isn’t it wonderful to know that the best chefs in the world are coming to your backyard to discover the very same food that you can enjoy every day?
Where: Nectar Restaurant
When: May 12 and 13th at 9 PM
Cost: $2500 MN (with wine), $1800 MN (without wine) per person
Reservations: Call Mariza Gonzalez at 999-178-7880
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested, here are a few related websites…
Older Yucatan cuisine article in Food & Wine
Rick Bayless’ Season Five, shot on location in the Yucatan
Recent LA Times article about cochinita
World’s Best Restaurants List
Rene Redzepi’s restaurant in Copenhagen, Noma