Festival Gourmet International Puerto Vallarta… World Class Cuisine
Puerto Vallarta sunset
Festival Gourmet International
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Recently, I was recommended by The TASTE Awards to represent the USA as a Celebrity Chef Ambassador to the Festival Gourmet International in beautiful Puerto Vallarta. Although I knew Mexican cuisine was more than just guacamole, chips and salsa with a little shrimp, rice and beans thrown in, I had no idea the gastronomic experience I was about to embark on. Here, in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, renowned Chefs converge for 10 days of gastronomic excellence in one of the most beautiful regions of Mexico to enlighten gourmet enthusiasts with real gourmet cuisine from Mexico’s top chefs and their invited chefs from around the world.
Each year, Puerto Vallarta is home to the Festival Gourmet International which was founded 20 years ago by three esteemed Chefs, Thierry Blouet, Heinz Reize, and Roland Menetrey who have now become the culinary “Tres Mosqueteras” (Three Musketeers) sharing “una ideologia” (one message)… “love and passion – the salt and pepper for good taste!”
Founding Chef Heinz Reize with guest chefs
Setting out to present the best cuisine in Mexico, this 10-day gastronomic celebration is a culinary immersion into top local restaurant and resort chefs who then invite noted chefs from around the world to join them in hosting Chef and Winemaker dinners which has grown beyond Puerto Vallarta to include Riviera Nayarit and Tepic resort destinations.
For 20 years, food lovers and gourmands have flown in from all over the globe to experience some of the finest cuisines imaginable. Kicking off this year’s Festival was the Gourmet Village Grand Opening event in the expansive courtyard of The Westin Resort and Spa Puerto Vallarta. Patron Tequila tastings, Moet & Chandon, specialty cocktails, gourmet cheeses, and dishes from the chefs including foie gras from Rougie, grilled oysters on the half shell, duck confit, salt cured bass, and braised pork belly.
Each day was followed by magical nights of food, wine, tequila, cocktails, live music and jazz at participating restaurants such as Café des Artistes, La Palapa, Cafe Trio,The River Cafe and more.
Local resorts also hosted cooking shows, jazz, wine and cheese, and private receptions featured at Villa Premiere Hotel and Spa, Garza Blanca Preserve Resort and Spa, Hilton Puerto Vallarta, CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta, The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort among other noted resorts and spas.
La Palapa’s “Chef Invitado” (Guest Chef) Ryan Steyn graduated from the Swiss Institute of Hospitality and currently opened El Jardin de Adobe in Baja, California. Of his selections for Festival Gourmet International were Ceviche Negro (Black Ceviche) with squid ink, sea urchin and avocado meringue, Pulpo Asado (Grilled Octopus) with ginger avocado dressing, Atun A La Parrilla (Tuna Steak) which is seared tuna with salicornia and smoked heirloom tomatoes. For dessert, selections include Profiteroles with cream of tequila sauce, Pay De Coco Y Canela (Coconut and Cinnamon Pie) and Tropical Cheesecake with passion fruit sauce.
Black Ceviche from La Palapa
Chef Jesus Gibaja is owner of Gibaja Gastronomia and is host of the television show, Gibaja Cuisine. As guest Chef at Villa Premiere Hotel and Spa Puerto Vallarta, Chef Jesus said, “it is a mistake that people think Mexican food has to be hot but no, this is not true.” Chef shared that everything in Mexican food is a trilogy of corn, chili, and beans… all kinds, all varieties. When asked about his cooking style, Chef Jesus remembered his father’s cantina in Mexico City. “I never knew,” he said, “my time spent in the cantina with my father would lead to a culinary career. My father was from Spain, so that has influenced my style as well.” On the menu during the Festival, Chef Jesus served a soup that featured banana and cumin, duck crepes, trio of tuna, and lobster cooked with pork fat.
One evening’s festivities featured a Progressive Avant-Garde Dinner in which you dine your way from appetizer to dessert at different restaurants. One stop took us to meet Chefs Bernhard Guth and Ulf Henriksson of Café Trio welcomed Chef Kristoffer Andersson as their guest chef. Chef Kristoffer, from Sweden, pleased diners with a salmon dish featuring roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds and fennel. Curious as to how the chef owners, Bernhard and Ulf, came to open a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta all the way from Germany and Sweden, Chef Bernhard replied, “I came here to visit and never left!” Of course, there may be a woman behind that story.
Chef Bernhard from Trio
At The River Café, Argentina native and guest chef, Chef Marco Gabriel Fulcheri prepared a Lamb Confit that was most probably the most decadent entrée I have ever eaten. I can’t say “tasted” because there was not a morsel left on my plate. If ever there was a culinary immersion, this was it.
Our grande finale for the evening was certainly grande. Café des Artistes may very well be known as the number one restaurant in Puerto Vallarta and possibly all of Mexico. Owner, Chef Thierry Blouet admires “the inner and outer beauty of every detail” and “cooks for the senses” creating compilations of color, attractive aromas and provocative textures. Chef Thierry invited Chef Carlos Gaytan to join him for this year’s Festival. Chef Carlos is the first Mexican chef to get a Michelin Star and now is Chef-Owner of Du Mexique in Chicago. For dessert, the duo presented a burst of flavors in an array of dishes including a sweet Guacamole con Queso Cotija from El Tuito. Served in a mortar and pestle, this dessert guacamole featured fresh pomegranate and cinnamon sugar wafer crisps.
It is no surprise the Festival Gourmet International just celebrated its 20th Anniversary. What Chefs Thierry, Heinz and Roland created out of “love and passion” for good taste has become the premier event for good friends new and old to celebrate the love of food, exchange ideas and share talents in a gorgeous, relaxing “avant-garde touristic destination presenting the best cuisine in Mexico” and beyond.
One of the founding chefs, Chef Thierry Blouet
Make your reservations now to attend the Festival Gourmet International 21, November 13 – 23, 2015… festivalgourmet.com
Chefs Carlos Ulloa Velazquez and Jose Ivan Loera Gonzalez of Hilton PV