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Moments from the Master Chefs of Mexico at PacifiCooks 2010

food prep Last month, award-winning Chef Antonio de Livier of Pueblo Bonito Hotels and his band of 18 chef "amigos" demonstrated their culinary talents to eager guests. The country's most renowned chefs came together as colleagues and friends to demonstrate their culinary artistry and showcase their talent as part of PacifiCooks 2010. Once again, our properties have become the "place to be" in July for those who are passionate about food and love the complete dining experience. Each day, five of the invited chefs took the lead to create customized menus from scratch, working with all the chef colleagues, to play with a five-course menu, emphasizing local and regional ingredients and foods. The inventive menus were served by Pueblo Bonito's knowledgeable wait staff, providing diners with detail after detail about the flavors and ingredients used in each dish. It's no small feat since each day's menu is a surprise. The chefs do informational training sessions with the staff so they can be well-versed when they bring the dishes to the eager diners. The chefs, too, come out of the kitchen to talk about the inspiration for the dishes, how they prepared them, and how to adapt them for cooking at home. Sergio Comacho, executive chef at the St. Regis, Mexico City, felt it is important to talk about how the chefs are using new techniques along with traditional practice. "We try to blend the simple with new techniques such as molecular fusion in our cooking. Respecting a product's core ingredients is of the essence," he commented. Guillermo Gonzalez Berestain, chef/owner of Grupo Pangea, focused on how Mexican cuisine has evolved and local chefs have trained at better schools and have traveled abroad. "This gives them the opportunity to work, see and appreciate what others are doing and to interpret, but not copy, what they learn, so they create dishes that become special here in Mexico." Federico Lopez, chef/owner of Gourmands and Gourmets, believes another important aspect of the event is that the chefs- and "amigos"--feel and have a responsibility to help train the next wave of chefs, providing inspiration, showing them new techniques and serving as mentors. "We are a melting pot of knowledge, talent and ideas." Creating one of the more brazen moments, Chef Juan Ramón Cárdenas of Saltillo, Mexico, prepared a small goat (Cabrito) over an open pit mesquite wood fire, turning it slowly but constantly for four hours in preparation for the PacifiCooks dinner last week at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica's Siempre Restaurant. The charcoal roasted goat, a specialty of Monterrey, Mexico, was served with a hearty San Rafael Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from Valle de Ojos Negros. For the same dinner, a "surprise" dish and chef appearance for a sumptuous five-course meal. The dish was Sea Bass with X-Catic Sauce, with a splash of lemon puree outlining the fish, poised on bok choy and red potato, prepared by Chef Arturo Fernández, who has cooked for top dignitaries around the world. Also at one of the events was Mexico's superstar pastry chef Paulína Abascal. Hotel guests and local visitors were treated to mouth-watering and bite-sized desserts -a blend of sweets inspired by classic European style with Mexican accents. Abascal perfected her techniques across Europe, from Belgium to France to Spain, and has published an award-winning encyclopedic guide to pastry, Larousse de los Postres. For Aquiles Chavez, chef/owner, Lo, Villehermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, and television personality, it is major events like PacifiCooks that help to elevate and showcase what is going on in Mexico's culinary world today. "A big plus of this event is that we chefs can freely exchange ideas, try new recipes and immediately go back to our respective restaurants and apply new concepts in our menus." Though the table settings are now tucked away and the extra wines have been stored and made ready for other Pueblo Bonito events, and the pots, pans, are all back in place, Chef Antonio is already thinking about next year's meeting of the "amigos." In summing up the impact of PacifiCooks, the chef paused ever so briefly and said thoughtfully, "People need to come and taste the country."

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