News from Around Banderas Bay | November 2005
|Hot Opener for the Gourmet Festival International
Kathy Taylor - PVNN
Fire. It is fitting that this most primitive and basic of cooking methods was the theme of the opening festivities of the Festival Gourmet International at the magnificent Mayan Palace in Nuevo Vallarta. Food on an open flame. We will never know if it was deliberate or by accident that the first haunch of mammoth or boar seared and charred in an open fire, but we do know that at that moment the first chef was born.
|The Blouets of Café des Artistes, Coco Tropical's Heinz Reize and Mayor Gustavo Gonzales Villaseñor kick off this year's Gourmet Festival International opener at the the magnificent Mayan Palace in Nuevo Vallarta.
|Instuctors from from the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise Gregoire-Ferrandi pictured here with Chef Roland Menetrey.
|Maximilian's guest chefs Rene Molle and Markus Kostinger.
Excitement and impatience were palpable as the traffic lined and valets bustled; keys were handed over and guests were ushered into a lush calm of clipped gardens, flower scented air and a moonlit canal where the most enviro-sensitive watercraft since the dugout canoe was waiting. The faint cadence of distant drumbeats grew louder as the Duff Cat 16 electric boat moved silently along the canals toward the source of the drumming. Torches flickered against the sky.
Water cascaded down the sides of the sentinel Mayan temple, and bonfires dotted the sandy beach. Fantasy creatures, in an art as life diorama stood on rocky and leafy pedestals, and crept through the crowd. Tigers, living trees, a gorilla…its hunter. The drums beat.
Throngs of people gathered around the other fires, the ones where crowded skewers of richly spiced beef, glistening red peppers and chunks of sweet onion smoked and sizzled. Chorizo coins and ruffles of bacon sandwiched tiny potato nuggets on sticks on another grill. An unpretentious baron of beef, living up to its royal name by sheer visual impact hung from a tripod above a bonfire. Wings from a thousand chickens glistened and glazed above the heat. Eating from sticks or banana leaves, faces lit by the amber flicker of flames, these guests, this tribe, enjoyed the simplest of food preparation, fire.
In the midst of this sophisticated primitive fantasy, some of the world's greatest chefs are standing in casual clusters. They stand out in the crowd. They are their own tribe. The chefs wear whites, their only concession to belonging to this professional elite, in startling contrast to the resort fashioned crowd and the bare-chested, grass- skirted waiters.
They share an easy camaraderie, greeting old friends with handshakes and grins - after all, the world of culinary excellence is smaller than we think, and many of them have sautéed and julienned in the same hot kitchens in study or in work. There are also the teachers, greeted with reverence and respect. From the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise Gregoire-Ferrandi come acclaimed chefs Gabriel Busquet and Gerard Dupont, who will conduct the cooking classes in the week to come.
The chefs' relaxed attitude belies the intense preparation and precision that is necessary to achieve their level of expertise. They have been working together for months, host restaurants and guest chefs - cities, countries and continents apart, an artistic collaboration that defies comprehension. Different techniques, ingredients, equipment, and language are all barriers to be crossed.
How does this collaboration begin? This is the eleventh year of the Festival Gourmet International, an increasingly prominent event in the gastronomic world, an event that grew from a dinner conversation between Chef Thierry Bouet, Café des Artistes, Chef Heinz Reize, CocoTropical, and Nestle's Sivan Mueller. An invitation to partner in the Vallarta Festival is considered an honor by the visiting chefs. But how do they find each other? Invited guest chefs are highly regarded and bear many accolades in their home country, but how does a busy Vallarta Chef find and develop the partnership that will produce the excellence that has become the hallmark of this event?
In the case of Café Maximilian, owners Cecelia and Maximilian Rupprechter were on their annual vacation to Maximilian's native Austria where his mother, also a chef who keeps her talented ear to the ground, directed them to Alexander.
Owned by Alexander Frankhauser, the restaurant has received 3 hats from Gault Millau, and he was named Best Austrian Chef in 2005. Alexander cooked a special menu for the Rupprechters, whose experienced palates signaled immediately that this was the chef for Café Maximilian. Due to a schedule determined by his well deserved success, Alexander was unable to come to Vallarta (he is in the middle of writing his first cookbook!).
In his stead, he sent his two Sous chefs, Rene Molle and Markus Kostinger, both with impeccable culinary credentials. Working with Café Maximilian's Chefs Carlos Palomera and Pablo Medina has been seamless in many ways - techniques and disciplines are similar.
|Throngs of people gathered around the fires, the ones where crowded skewers of richly spiced beef, glistening red peppers and chunks of sweet onion smoked and sizzled.
Language has presented the only hurdle, solved by Maximilian translating in the kitchen throughout the long preparation days before the Festival began. Cecelia has been kept busy sourcing ingredients, and critiquing the finished dishes. The venison, she says, "is wonderful…the best!!" The Austrian chefs are enjoying their celebrity status with affable grins, but in the kitchen, it is business as usual.
It is business as usual in this opening event as the officials of the Festival mount a platform in the Mayan lagoon. The drumming ceases and the fires burn low. Chef Roland Menetrey introduces the Guest Chefs and one by one they take their place on this island of excellence lapped by the blue waters of the lagoon. They take deep breaths of the clean night air, stars gleaming above them, some of them with stars in their future. This tribe gives them applause and acknowledgement in anticipation of the pleasure to come.
The chefs are welcomed and congratulated by Vallarta Mayor Gustavo Gonzales Villasenor, the Governor of Nayarit, Ney Gonzalez, and the Secretario of Tourism Dr. Jorge H. Sanchez Ibarra. They know that the increased visibility of Vallarta as an epicurean destination as well as a vacation destination is good for both the local economy and esteem. Cameras flash.
The beach at the Mayan empties slowly. The water laps at the shore under the bridge that leads to the lobby. The chefs walk out through the giant Mayan gods that soar into the night sky. Next week will find them in the restaurant kitchens of Vallarta, cooking with fire.
Read all the event stories and view the photo galleries of the Festival Gourmet International 2005, from the Jungle themed kick off at the Mayan Palace to the Tropical Odyssey Closing Gala at the Sheraton. Just follow the links below.
Tropical Odyssey - An Exotic End to Festival 2005
For an evening to be truly memorable, it takes a combination of ambiance, music, wine, food, and often, company. The Tropical Odyssey Gala that was the closing event of the Eleventh Annual International Festival Gourmet Vallarta had all of these elements.more »»»
The ABC's of Gourmet
What many consider to be the "heart and soul" of the Festival Gourmet takes place in the days between the opening and closing parties, and during the daylight hours before the coveted Chef's Tables. The cooking classes offered by the Festival Gourmet are a great way to learn new skills and rub shoulders with like-minded gourmands.more »»»
The Chef's Table Masterpiece of Cocina de Autor
Imagine this... you've invited two of the world's finest chefs into your home, as well as a sommelier, a maitre d' and staff, and a jazz duo. The linens are crisp, the glasses gleam in the candlelight, and soothing water cascades down the rock wall in your outside atrium as you watch Chefs Blouet and Tapia create a masterpiece.more »»»
To Know Wine is to Understand Life
It has been said that "to know wine is to understand life," and thanks to the wine tasting events taking place at the Sheraton Buganvilias during this year's Festival Gourmet Expo Forum, you don't have to be a wine connoisseur to explore the wonderful world of wine.more »»»
Bianco - The Best of Both Worlds
Just a month after their gala opening, Bianco's Chef's Table event, as part of the Festival Gourmet, was a huge success. Guest Chef Bernard Guillas from La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, and the Bianco staff created a one-of-a-kind 6 course meal in their unique fusion style, bringing together European cuisine and traditional Mexican ingredients.more »»»
Festival Gourmet Brunch Highlights
One of the most anticipated events of the Gourmet Festival is the Brunch at the Sheraton Buganvilias in Puerto Vallarta. Chef Francis Drillien of the Sheraton Cabo San Lucas, guest chef for this event, celebrated the sea with a minimalist brunch for 400 guests on Sunday. more »»»
The Flavours of Contemporary Chile
In the leafy aerie that is the top terrace of Chef Thierry Blouet's Cocina de Autor, his guest chef Oscar Tapia gave us a little gift yesterday, an amuse-bouche, which not only pleased but teased in anticipation for the chef's table dinner they will offer this Tuesday.more »»»