Chefs look towards a sustainable future in Puerto Vallarta

Responsibility towards the environment, waste, and sustainable planting beyond trends were topics shared in the 14th edition of the Vallarta-Nayarit Gastronomic Festival (VNG), held in the paradisiacal setting of the crystalline waters of Bahía de Flags.

From October 12 to 18, 24 beverage experts and 45 chefs at the helm of restaurants with Michelin stars and ranked among the best in the world, Latin America and Mexico, met to show their experience but also to contribute concerns and perspectives on the present and future of the restaurant industry.

Inspiring by example is the mission that the VNG achieves annually by bringing together renowned chefs, but in this edition, it brought for the first time the only woman in the United States who has hung three Michelin stars -and the fifth in the world-, for her restaurant Atelier Crenn (San Francisco).

And although self-taught cook Dominique Crenn is an Iron Chef, she has her own chapter on Chef’s Table and talks at TEDx, she has published two books and in 2016 she was recognized as the World’s Best Female Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

“Cooking is not about being in the Top 50 or having three Michelin stars. Cooking is about love, being responsible, and being human, and when we leave this world, future generations can continue to enjoy the resources and give continuity to our traditions.

“Frequently, the word sustainability is used as a fashionable label, but it is something that goes beyond, it is a way of living, of thinking from the earth. The future of cooking is to return to the origin, which is nature. We must first think about where the food comes from and understand what we have around us, from the ecosystem, the community, and the traditions, before we start cooking,” said the 50-year-old who grew up in France but lives in the US.

In addition to encouraging young students to avoid waste and use all parts of their supplies, Dominique decided not to prepare her French-influenced food and preferred to adapt by preparing a chestnut-based mole.

“The pandemic made us think a lot and I have been usefully researching from the ground what flavors make California. I discovered that it was part of Mexico and that the natives had chestnut trees, so I decided to use it for this mole, along with walnuts, pistachios, blueberry, and beet, because it seemed like a good way to reconnect with history. We are history, let’s not break the narrative, and let’s better give it continuity,” said the winner of the 2021 Icon Award, an award that applauds her career, influence, and inspiration.

After venturing into the VNG last year, the Mexican Daniela Soto-Innes, the Best Female Chef in the World, by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, returned to Puerto Vallarta to praise the national food during her cooking show.

In addition to sharing her experience growing corn, beans, squash, Hoja Santa, and other nationally rooted flavors that she sees grow on Lummi Island, Washington (where she currently resides); The graduate of Le Cordon Bleu of Culinary Art made cold nixtamalized beets to show how she appropriates trompo de pastor, and she presented step by step the meat-free version of it before a full auditorium.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the thirty-something made it known through her Instagram account (@danielasotoinnes) that she was leaving Cosme and Atla’s New York dining rooms behind, ending her employment relationship with Enrique Olvera, after eight years. She has lived in Lummi ever since, after the Elio restaurant (Las Vegas) failed due to the closure of the Wynn hotel that housed it.

Currently, she shares the kitchen of the Willows Inn (Washington) with her husband, Blaine Wetzel, with whom she went on stage at the VNG to announce that they will open a project in Nayarit, but they did not want to delve into the details.

“It’s a project that’s coming up in the middle of next year, so we’re going to be here more often. We’re going to bring the entire family from the Island (Lummi) to Nayarit and embody our roots again. We’re going to learn more about this land,” said Soto-Innes, who also prepared stuffed crabs during her speech.

Those who changed the dynamics of the event were the pair of resident chefs in Spain, Diego Gallegos and Kisco García, because in their participation they talked about sustainability, they brought two pairs of students on stage and recreated a piece of the service that Gallegos has in Sollo (Málaga) and Kisco García in Choco (Córdoba), both Andalusian food restaurants, with orchards and awarded a Michelin star.

“Sustainability is no longer a fad, it is something that is here to stay because all bars and restaurants are getting their act together. Sustainability for me is that the next generation of cooks has the privilege of cooking with the same products that we have now.

“There are products that in two or three years will no longer exist because no work has been done so that future generations also have access to them, but they are exported immediately,” said Gallegos, who has sustainable fish production and whose restaurant obtained the Michelin Green star in 2021, in addition to the Michelin star it already had.

“We as chefs must support producers who really produce with quality because in the future, when we do not have a product in the wild, we will have real alternatives for a quality product to continue working with them,” added García.

-Among the parade of prestigious chefs, were Carlos Gaytán (Tzuco), Gerardo Vázquez Lugo (Nico’s), Gabriela Ruiz (Carmela y Sal), Pablo Salas (Amaranta), Abel Hernández (Loretta) -these last three also met are part of the debut of Iron Chef Mexico-; the influencer Roberto Morales (@robegrill), better known for his popular phrase “Que Chille!”, also gave a cooking show.

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