MEXICO CITY Baja California cuisine was well-represented last week at the 2015 World Forum on Mexican Gastronomy (FMGM) held at the National Arts Center (CENART) in Mexico City. The third annual event was conceived and presented by the Cultural Conservatory for Mexican Gastronomy (CCGM) and promotes and seeks to protect the country's regional culinary traditions.
Caesar's Restaurant in Tijuana was awarded on its merits of "perseverance of quality and tradition" by the CCGM during the opening night of the event. Caesar's Restaurant, home of the Caesar salad, has been in business since 1927. Tijuana's Grupo Plascencia took over operations of the flailing institution in 2010 and have since restored the space and menu to their former glory. Owner Juan Jose (Tana) Plascencia was on hand last week to receive the award.
Margarita Carrillo, author of Mexico: The Cookbook, introduced Doña Sabina Bandera of Ensenada seafood street cart La Guerrerense to CENART's outdoor stage on Friday afternoon. Bandera, her daughter Mariana Oviedo and Ana Laura Martinez of Tijuana's Culinary Art School discussed the salsas of Ensenada and Tijuana preparing several spicy examples based on regionally influenced recipes. Doña Sabina displayed her trademark charm and smile as she met and took photos with members of the audience afterward.
Sabina Bandera, Mariana Oviedo and Ana Laura Martînez discuss and prepare regional salsas at FMGM 2015. Photo W. Scott Koenig.
Ana Laura Martinez also gave a presentation on the gastronomy of beverages in Baja California at CENART's cavernous Churubusco Studio. The studio also housed exhibitors from around the country who offered samples of mezcal, craft beer, pulque, tequila and pox (pronounced "posh) a drink from Chiapas made by fermenting sugar cane in a corn base before distillation.
Chefs Javier Plascencia and Miguel Angel Guerrero of Baja California have also participated in previous FMGM events.
Cuisine from other Mexican states was also represented at the FMGM this year in the form of exhibitions, demonstrations, tastings and workshops. A highlight of the event is a daily lunch prepared by traditional cocineras (female cooks) from the representative Mexican states. Cooking outside over woodfire, the cocineras prepare everything from moles from Oaxaca to "ceremonial tacos" from the state of Guanajuato.
Cocinera Benedicta Alejo Vargas at work preparing traditional recipes from the state of Michoacan. Photo W. Scott Koenig.
"The entire idea of the FMGM and ensuring that Mexican cuisine was protected as a cultural asset came from Gloria López Morales," Ruth Alegria, member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), the James Beard Foundation and Slow Food Mexico shared. "When Gloria started on this in 2004, the CCGM's offices were three rooms in her house. The organization and the event have grown, but funding is always an issue for it to continue."
Morales, an educator, diplomat and expert on cultural affairs, began with the ultimate goal of having the regional cuisines of Mexico added to the list of UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage assets. So far, only Michoacan has been awarded the designation and international protection. Other regional cuisines currently seeking review and approval include the states of Oaxaca, the Yucatan, Puebla, Jalisco and Chiapas.
Famed Mexican chef Enrique Olvera was a highlight of and closed the event this year, as he did last year in Puebla. Keeping with one of the conference's themes of chiles, Olvera discussed their use and purposes in some of the dishes at Pujol, his flagship restaurant in Mexico City.
Chef Enrique Olvera, flanked by CCGM founder Gloria López Morales, closes the FMGM 2015. Photo W. Scott Koenig.
The first World Forum on Mexican Gastronomy was held in Acapulco in 2013, with last year's event taking place in Puebla. CENART in Mexico City is rumored to be the location for next year's event again, based on the institution's generosity toward the CCGM and its mission.
For more information on the Cultural Conservatory for Mexican Gastronomy's Mission, visit: http://www.ccgm.mx/somos_eng.html