Be it a fish taco or an aromatic mole, Mexico’s cuisine is as varied as its landscape. Culinary trips south of the border are nothing new, but nowadays plenty of travelers want more than to eat their way through the country – they want to learn how to make those dishes that make their toes tingle and their stomachs sing.
“Without a doubt, one of the main reasons Mexican cuisine is so popular with foodies is its enormous range,” says Artisans of Leisure’s John McGee. “It’s a vibrant expression of regional and indigenous traditions, including ancient Maya and Aztec….” Add to that, he continues, “the diverse landscapes—desert to jungle, mountain to sea; and flavors from Latin America, Europe and elsewhere.” Mexico’s cuisine, he adds, “…is also very malleable and welcomes experimentation, making it popular among chefs and almost everyone else who likes to cook.”
Culinary schools, whether for beginners or pros, are plentiful throughout Mexico, particularly in areas like Oaxaca where local delicacies seem to flourish. Clients would probably learn some “general” Mexican cuisine basics along with more regional options (one of many schools in Oaxaca, for example, is the Seasons of My Heart). There are also quite a number of schools in Puebla, one of Mexico’s culinary hotspots. Poblano cuisine is quite famous throughout and outside of Mexico, what with freshly made mole poblano, chalupas and the cemita, a type of stuffed sandwich—and that’s just the beginning. Thought to be one of the most representative of Mexican cuisines, Pueblan gastronomy also consists of many corn-based dishes and even a wide array of typical candies. It’s little wonder that many of Mexico’s cooking schools are found in Puebla.
Meson de la Sacristia, a member of Mexico Boutique Hotels (MBH), offers guests a culinary workshop that takes place in an intimate setting within the hotel and is very hands-on. “The chef guides participants but does not prepare the food; guests do,” says Elisa Ramirez, Meson’s director of public relations. Its Pueblan Cuisine package offers six nights in a jr. suite, daily breakfast, daily lunch or dinner, passes to two museums in Puebla, a guided tour of the town’s historic center, and the piece de resistance: a 15-hour course of Mexican cuisine.
Another MBH property, Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende, is also a great option for clients because it has its own offsite cooking school. Sazon offers three types of classes: the Market Tour course, Regional Cuisines and Mexican Specialties. The last two vary in recipes and types of cuisine, so clients can take them on different days and each time learn something new. Regional Cuisines will teach them about cuisine from Oaxaca, Veracruz and Mexico City, for instance, while Mexican Specialtiesallows them to learn how to make dishes that are prepared for particular festivities and events, such as Holy Week.
Not all of the fun takes place in the kitchen, however. Sazon manager Lourdes Guerrero reveals that the most popular class they offer is the Market Tour—a guided excursion of the San Miguel market where the Sazon chef shows clients the many ingredients needed in particular dishes and how to choose the best ones. Once they return to school, they’ll use their purchases to make salsas, typical salads and other dishes. By doing this, says Guerrero, “They get to know and support local producers, such as those that make and sell different types of cheeses, grow nopales or different types of chilies and the like.”
Keep in mind clients don’t have to stay at Casa de Sierra Nevada to sign up for classes at Sazon. Whether they stay there or not, each class is priced at 600 pesos (approximately $47) and lasts for about two hours. But if they’d rather stay here—and who wouldn’t: the property is breathtaking—MBH has a Sazon Cooking Experience package that includes a Market Tour and another class with the school chef for two (they can add more classes if they wish), as well as daily breakfast. Rates per room, per night start at $258.
the flavors of the mexican republic Another alternative for culinary travelers is to go the luxury route, mixing learning with touring. “Food is one of the many reasons our travelers choose the destination, and our travelers are delighted to find a sophisticated dining scene and world-class chefs in places like Mexico City, Oaxaca and Merida,” says Artisans of Leisure’s McGee. “Culinary experiences are built into most of our Mexico itineraries, and our Culinary Tour of Mexico has become popular among travelers wanting to delve deeper into Mexico’s complex and delicious food culture.”