One of the activities I had planned to do a lot of while in Mexico was to take cooking classes and learn more about different traditions of Mexican gastronomy. Although I didn’t travel as far and wide as I had hoped, I did get around quite a bit. Most of my stay was based in the Yucatan peninsula, including the states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and a couple of days in Campeche.
I spent two months in Merida with numerous day trips, a week in Mexico City, including side trips to Taxco, Guanajuato, Delores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, and Queretaro, and a week in the city of Oaxaca, which I loved. For my last two weeks I jouneyed down the glorious Caribbean coast between Cancun and Tulum.
Soon after my arrival I started contacting cooking schools. In Merida, I hoped to take classes at Remixto culinary salon and Los Dos cooking school, two distinguished establishments. Unfortunately, classes at both were on hold for several months. Construction on the new home and teaching kitchen of Remixto was not yet finished. Los Dos suspended classes when the chef had to turn his full attention to health issues. I also requested a class at the beautiful boutique hotel Rosas & Xocolate (pronounced ro-sass ee sho-co-lah-tay), but I wasn’t able to pull together a minimum number of people.
Fortunately, however, my quest was not entirely fruitless. Both chefs Brent Marsh and David Sterling graciously offered to meet with me. I wrote in an earlier post about the delightful evening at dinner with Brent and his partner Stan. While I wasn’t able to meet with David, his assistant Mario met with me at Los Dos, and shared information about the history, goals, and operations of the school. Los Dos is the first school in Mexico devoted exclusively to the cuisine of Yucatan. It offers a broad range of one-day cooking and tasting classes as well as multi-day themed excursions and packages around Yucatan. Remixto offers local events and classes focused on using traditional Mexican ingredients in new ways; it will soon have an official launch when Casa Remixto has been completed.
While I didn’t get to take a class from the chef at Rosas & Xocolate, I did get a tour of the hotel and restaurant from amiable hotel manager Alicia Villegas.
Alicia not only showed me around, introduced me to the owner, and treated me to their delicious capuccino and chocolate-filled pastries, but she also arranged a private tour for me of the newly expanded gourmet chocolate factory in town, Ki Xocolatl, with the owner. From that visit also came an invitation to tour the Tikul organic cacao plantation and eco-museum. I’ll write more about those in a follow-up post about my first visit to the cacao museum.
Back to the phantom cooking lessons… Before leaving Merida, I arranged an excursion with a friend to Izamal, the “yellow city,” with an overnight stay and cooking lesson in a charming tropical B&B, Macan Che. When we arrived, however, we learned that the time of the lesson had to be changed to accommodate the schedule of a large yoga group that was staying there. The new time would have made it impossible for us to visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, so I passed on the lesson. Who can pass up Chichen Itza, one of the new seven wonders of the world? And wondrous it was!
My friend and I then left Yucatan for a week in Mexico City. We were so busy doing and seeing things in and around the city that I didn’t have time to investigate cooking classes. However, while there I scheduled a week’s visit to the beautiful colonial city of Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-ca.) Oaxacan cuisine is legendary — famous for its chocolate, moles (mo-lays, dishes made with chocolate, chiles, herbs and spices; 7 types based on different kinds of chiles), mezcal, gusanos (agave worms), and chipulines (dry roasted spicy grasshoppers), among other delights.
For years I had wanted to take a class at Seasons of My Heart cooking school with the renowned Susana Trilling. I had a lesson lined up for mid-week. Alas, several days before the class I was notified that it was canceled because Susana would be out of town. Disappointed but undeterred, I asked whether she might be available to meet with me on another day. She was! We had a lovely meeting, along with her assistant Alix, at Susana’s ranch and cooking school outside the city, where we talked about the possibilities of escorting groups to cook and tour with them.
Did I ever take any cooking classes in Mexico? The good news — yes! I participated in two excellent classes in Oaxaca, taught by Oscar Carrizosa of Casa Crespo, and Pilar Cabrera of La Casa de los Sabores. Oscar and Pilar each put together delicious traditional and complex Oaxacan dishes and make them easy and enjoyable to learn. In Playa del Carmen, of all places, I found a brand new, contemporary culinary school just off the beach, Co.Cos Cocina Cosmopolita. Coty Villareal, the owner, surprised me with a private lesson to try out one of her new menus — what a treat! Coty teaches not only traditional and modern cuisines of Mexico but also offers classes in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine for local residents and cooks. She also has classes for kids. All three classes were fun and informative hands-on experiences, and the meals we created were scrumptious. I would highly recommend any and all of them. I’ll be writing soon about my non-phantom cooking lessons.
My search for cooking classes in Mexico was fun, educational, and surprising. I also found lessons in other places, both formal and informal, that I’ll plan to try on my next visit. What was truly surprising and heartwarming was how welcoming, accommodating, passionate, and generous with time and information that everyone I met during my adventure was. I would love to share these experiences with culinary travelers who’d like to get to know more about Mexico through its gastronomy and learn from these inspirational chefs and teachers.