Mexican Caribbean: Michelin chefs, new restaurants and food festivals
The Mexican Caribbean is refreshing its iconic cuisine with a wave of lauded new restaurants by internationally recognized chefs bringing world-class fare to the region. Cherished for classic flavors rooted in Mayan culture, new takes on the region’s gastronomy are drawing travelers to a growing amount of conceptual eateries, food festivals and culinary attractions.
This summer Paradisus Cancun became the first all-inclusive Cancun resort to twice earn the coveted Five Diamond Award from AAA with signature restaurant TEMPO by Martin Berasategui, helmed by the Spanish chef with ten Michelin stars. The restaurant fuses classic Mexican ingredients with Berasategui’s Basque flair. Also led by a top chef is HA’ at Hotel Xcaret Mexico by Carlos Gaytán, the first Mexican chef to earn a Michelin star. Named for the Mayan word for water, HA’ is outfitted with modern mirrored décor and sleek water fountains that reflect the hotel’s eco-conscious aesthetic. On an eight-course journey paired with the best Mexican wines, Gaytán aims to transform taste buds through the diverse elements of Mexican cooking.
In ever-trendy Tulum, Kin Toh by Executive Chef Rurik Salazar at AZULIK provides an eco-luxe setting that complements the property’s romantic, tree-lined aesthetic. The hotel’s surrealist architecture sets the scene for Kin Toh’s Mayan-Mexican fusion, through which Salazar honors ancestral techniques with certified sustainable ingredients and elevated preparations. The result is an unmatched experience through the senses, paired by live DJs, stunning sunset views and more than 200 wine options on offer. With dark wood décor and eclectic influences from Mediterranean, Asian and South American cuisines, Ocumare by Argentinian Michelin-starred Chef Giovanini at Be Tulum Hotel brings the popular shared-dining concept to the Tulum jungle. Sharable plates and artisanal cocktails emphasize local Caribbean ingredients and dramatic flavors in a rustic outdoor environment.
“Beyond the typical staples of Mexican Caribbean cuisine, travelers are seeking new experiences and refined dining through the rise of culinary tourism,” said Dario Flota Ocampo, director of Quintana Roo Tourism Board. “Merging local authenticity and international approaches represents today’s Mexican Caribbean at its best.”
The state’s annual festivals bring tourism to the region all year long, beginning with Tulum’s Food, Spirits & Wine Festival: Taste of Mexico held early in the year, hosting events, music, mixology, street food and Tulum artisans. Each summer, Velas Resorts’ “Bite of Mexico” hosts 24 visiting chefs from Mexico City and Puebla across its coastal resorts including Grand Velas Riviera Maya, where guests enjoy presentations and experiences from top chefs, Mole spa treatments, ancestral drink tastings, Mexican fairs and kids’ activities. Glamorous, adults-only UNICO 20º87º also celebrates its Superbia Summer featuring five-star chef restaurant takeovers, sommelier-selected wine pairings, bar takeovers and more. Superbia returns this December for a special year-end edition ringing in 2020 over five days of parties, mixology sessions and interactive activations concluding with a masquerade party on December 31.
Each October at Le Chique in Riviera Maya, considered one of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants, the unique Chili Pepper Festival is dedicated to one of Mexico’s most recognizable ingredients. Travelers craving new tastes will find them in the delicious Mexican Caribbean.