Cooking classes are a growing trend in Los Cabos.// © 2012 Los Tamarindos
Los Cabos is going through a culinary revolution. Today’s visitors will find much more on offer besides the typical Mexican entree or American-style burger. Los Cabos resorts are offering cooking classes; organic farms are inviting travelers to take an up-close look at responsible practices; and restaurants are coming up with unique recipes utilizing local ingredients. One major change is leading the way.
“The trend in Los Cabos — and with our two restaurants as well — is local sourcing,” said Tadd Chapmann, chef/owner of Don Sanchez Cantina and Habaneros Restaurant, both located in San Jose del Cabo. “More than ever before, the produce and seafood are fresh and seasonal.”
Fresh and fusion are catchwords for Los Cabos chefs. For example, Chapmann is presenting a creative take on Mexican fusion cuisine at Habanero, where it serves a pesto seared sea bass accompanied by a grilled nopal (cactus) ratatouille. For the pesto, local cilantro is substituted in place of the basil.
Foodies flocking to Los Cabos will also find more Mexican wines on the menu, which Chapmann rates highly for their similarity to California offerings. While Los Cabos itself is not considered a wine-growing region, Chapmann is talking to one local winemaker who works with locally sourced fruit.
“It’s not for sale yet, but he produces a mango wine,” said Chapmann. “You’d be surprised. It’s not what you’d expect — the wine is very dry and crisp.”
Another major player on the Los Cabos food scene is Enrique Silva, co-owner and executive chef of Tequila Restaurant, in San Jose del Cabo, and owner of Organic Huerta Los Tamarindos, a working organic farm, where Silva offers organic cooking classes.
“When we opened Tequila 16 years ago, the restaurants of San Jose del Cabo served traditional Mexican food,” remembered Silva. “We decided to do it differently and created a fusion cuisine combining Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican cooking techniques.”
When Silva bought Los Tamarindos in 2002, the purchase came with its own farmhouse that was originally built in 1888. Silva lovingly restored the house to resemble a kitchen from Puebla, with wood-beam ceilings and plenty of tiles. This is where he conducts the first half of his cooking classes, with the other half taking place in an outdoor kitchen.
Silva can provide a cooking experience for groups of six to up to 60 people.
“These are hands-on classes, in which everyone receives an apron, a cutting board and a knife,” said Silva. “Guests pitch in to prepare the ingredients of the meal, which is shared outdoors at a long table in a natural pergola under the trees.”
Silva is in the midst of constructing six one- and two-bedroom bungalows on the grounds of Tamarindo. The first two of these are expected to be completed in 2013.
“We’ll be inviting chefs to stay with us for a week or two, where we can learn from them and vice versa,” said Silva. “Tourists will also be able to book the bungalows. We’ve found advanced interest from families with kids who want to experience what it’s like to live on a working organic farm.”
“Some of the local resorts in Los Cabos have been very supportive,” said Silva, who pays 10 percent commission to travel agents on all bookings. “They’re paying a lot of attention to local growers and buying directly from farmers.”
Flora Farm, a 10-acre working organic farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, is another option for clients seeking a culinary experience.
Flora Farm comprises a field kitchen restaurant, a farm bar, a grocery store, a cooking school, an art gallery and a microbrewery. Tours of the working farm are offered daily.
Los Cabos resorts offering cooking classes include Esperanza, An Auberge Resort; Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort; Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa; One&Only Palmilla; Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach; The Westin Resort & Spa; and Zoetry Casa del Mar.
One of the best ways to immerse clients in the burgeoning Los Cabos culinary scene is to book a visit during December, during which the month-long Sabor a Cabo food festival takes place. During the festival, 40 restaurants throughout Los Cabos participate in gastronomic festivities, with live music driving the action.