Baja California

Baja California Cuisine Takes it's Place on National Stage

Chefs and producers participate in 2016 World Forum on Mexican Gastronomy.

Baja California and its cuisine were represented again this year at the World Forum on Mexican Gastronomy (FMGM) held at the National Arts Center (CENART) in Mexico City. The fourth annual event was conceived and presented by the Cultural Conservatory for Mexican Gastronomy (CCGM), who promote and seek to protect the country's regional culinary traditions.

Traditional regional cocineras prepare lunch at FMGM. Photo: AGringoInMexico.com

One of the highlights of this year's forum was a presentation on Baja California cuisine by two of the region's most esteemed chefs — Miguel Angel Guerrero of Tijuana's La Querencia and Ensenada's La Esperanza, and Martin San Roman of Ensenada's La Terrasse San Roman and Tijuana's La Rotisserie San Roman. The two gave cooking demonstrations using filet of escolar as their basis — a fish native to the coast of Baja California. Chef Guerrero presented a dish of grilled escolar atop a bed of kale in a hearty sauce, while chef San Roman prepared the fish two ways: Sautéed and served with a tart lemon sauce, and as a fish cake.

Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero's escolar filet. Photo AGringoInMexico.com

After the demonstrations, the two chefs relaxed on an onstage couch and fielded questions from the audience. Culinary professor Luis Ricardo Bonilla Cazarín and Miguel Angel's wife Judith Medrano moderated. The pair both emphasized the abundance and variety of fresh product available in Baja California.

Chefs Miguel Angel Guerrero and Martin San Roman. Photo AGringoInMexico.com

Sabina Bandera of famed Ensenada street cart and restaurant La Guerrerense and her daughter Mariana Oviedo served their seafood tostadas to an adoring crowd for the fourth year in a row. Earlier in the week, the pair joined chefs Santiago Migoya and Burno Oteiza at their Polanco-based restaurant TALO to serve a Thanksgiving Day brunch of tostadas and a light cocktail of sea urchin, chocolate clams, sea snails, and other fresh ingredients shipped fresh from Baja California.

Seafood cocktail from La Guerrerense. Photo: AGringoInMexico.com

The region's next generation of chefs manned the Baja California booth in the cantina section of the show in the cavernous La Churubusco Studios. Chef Giannina Gavaldon of Valle de Guadalpe's Olivia el Asador presented a daily treat of fresh prepared abalone, mussels, and more. Pastry chef Bianca Castro supplied attendees with a stunning array of delicious desserts. Tijuana Oryx Capital chef Ruffo Ibarra blended a creamy chowder of corn and sea urchin.

When asked how Baja California differs from other regions in Mexico represented at the show, Ibarra emphasized, "Chefs here from other parts of the country appreciate the level of camaraderie we share in Baja. This is unusual in Mexico (where there can be more competition). We grow so much faster when we learn from each other. And our craft beers are known in Mexico due to our cross-border relationship with San Diego and what we've learned from brewers there."

Chefs Francisco Gutierrez and Ruffo Ibarro of Oryx Capital. Photo: AGringoInMexico.com

Cuisine from other Mexican states was 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 their regional specialties, which are served on traditional Mexican decorative plates. Cocineras in attendance included Martha Soledad Gómez Atzín from Veracruz, Celia Florián from Oaxaca, and Benedicta Alejo from Michoacán.

Pork in mole verde with fried plantain from state of Tabasco. Photo: AGringoInMexico.com

As the show's profile grows, culinary celebrity attendance at the FMGM is becoming de riguer. Spotted in and around CENART this year were: British food critic and author Tom Parker Bowles, US 2016 Master Chef winner Claudia Sandoval, street food expert and TLC's The Food Surprise! host KF Seetoh, and Susana Trilling of Seasons Of My Heart, a well-known and regarded cooking school in Oaxaca.

Culinary student Gaby Pindter, KF Seetoh, and Susana Trilling. Photo: AGringoInMexico.com

Gloria López Morales, an educator, diplomat and expert on cultural affairs, founded the CCGM with the ultimate goal of having the regional cuisines of Mexico listed as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage assets. So far, only the state of Michoacan has been awarded patrimonial status. Other regional cuisines currently seeking review and approval include the states of Oaxaca, the Yucatan, Puebla, Jalisco and Chiapas.

The first World Forum on Mexican Gastronomy was held in Acapulco in 2013. The fifth annual event in 2017 will also be held at CENART in Mexico City as CCGM has a three-year lease with the venue.

For more information on the Cultural Conservatory for Mexican Gastronomy and the Foro Mundial de la Gastronomia Mexicana, visit: http://www.ccgm.mx/somos_eng.html

Para más información sobre el Conservatorio Cultural de la Gastronomía Mexicana y el Foro Mundial de la Gastronomía Mexicana, visite: www.ccgm.mx

A Gringo In Mexico

scott@agringoinmexico.com

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