At the time of writing this article it has only been some 10 days since I arrived in Mexico as part of my research for our upcoming London events – ‘Mexico by Kitchen Theory’ and the ‘Synaesthesia Mexico by Kitchen Theory’ dinners which are being hosted at the Zefiro Restaurant which is a part of the University of the Cloister of San Juana in Mexico City.
Now I have been researching this most amazing culture (see more details) for several months and have grown to genuinely respect Mexican gastronomy – yes GASTRONOMY (a word not typically associated with this country’s food) of the kind which is up there with the ‘best’ of them and has earned a UNESCO designation of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, along with Japanese Washuko.
Aside from this I feel it is important to mention the amazing reception our project has been received by several Mexican institutions (including the Mexican Embassy in the UK and the University of CoSJ), groups (including Greater Mexico and Street Art Chillango) as well as individuals and chefs alike. It has been unlike any response we have had when developing concepts for other regional cuisines. And why? Because Mexican people value good food, art, culture and creativity.
In the short time I have been here I have also come to develop a genuine affinity for all things Mexican, while at the same time feeling a growing resentment towards the stereotypical and generally derogatory manner in which Mexico is often ‘marketed’ in UK (I also hear it is the same in many other countries, but I can only really speak of what I know). Even when speaking to some of our guests over the last few months about our next concept, it was a mixed bag of responses; some guests had traveled to Mexico and appeared excited by the prospect of a Kitchen Theory interpretation of Mexican cuisine while others seemed slightly skeptical about what they perceive as a blow your mind chili fest, with a meat dominant menu and a host of stereotypical nacho, burrito, cheese laden dishes. Now that’s not to say that Mexican cuisine does not use a variety of meats and an even greater variety of chilies, but the general perception of Mexican food could not be farther from the truth.
So far I have had some of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever eaten and not so much as broken a sweat or had to reach for the water on account of the heat levels of the dishes. On the contrary, dishes are so well balanced with savoury, sweetness, sourness, along with fresh flavours and a variety of textures. And a quick note on the beers; all we seem to really be exposed to in the UK is the run of the mill Corona and Sol lager or some Negro Modelo in select places, none of which even begin to describe the amazing range and variety of Mexican craft beers available both draft and bottled (just check out Fieber de Malta which happens to be right next to where I’m staying)
As for the chefs over here; they are just starting to make their mark on the global scene – just take a look at Elena Reygadas. And there are more in the making – I know as I have spent most of my time hanging out in the kitchen at Zefiro – the CoSJ’s restaurant where a whole new generation of chefs are being trained under the experienced and highly skilled hands of Executive Chef Juan Pablo Flores Benitez (former Head Chef at Le Cirque Mexico) and his Head Chef Eduardo Carmona (whose vast experience includes a season at elbulli). So far I have had the pleasure of spending time with both chefs to develop the ‘Synaesthesia Mexico’ menu which we are adapting to use only Mexican ingredients and to the local palate. One very interesting point we have looked into is colour-taste perception over here. Unlike in Europe where generally red=sweet, green=sour, black=bitter and white=salty, in Mexico the general perception is red=sour, green=bitter, black=salty and white=sweet!!
Ok so the point is Mexican food rocks and we are about to show our guests in London not only how great the gastronomy is but also the modern art, music and culture. So join us!