By Brooke Gazer
One of my favorite events in our small seaside resort is the “Encuentro de Cocineros Huatulco” (meeting of cooks). On the last Sunday of each month, restaurants and a few independent chefs come together to offer a taste of what they do best. The chefs choose a different theme each month and Huatulco´s residents and visitors are invited to come and sample their creations. You could be treated to a wide selection of pastas, or you might sample tamales… and who knew there could be so many different fillings?
The idea for this event came about when five chefs had a friendly competition over who could make the best shrimp cocktail. The winner of this challenge is not important, but it was so much fun that they wanted to do it again. It occurred to them that this would be an excellent way to raise money for charity and “Encuentro de Cocineros Huatulco” was born.
Participants are primarily from hotels and restaurants, but private individuals are also welcome and some of my favorite dishes have been prepared in someone’s home kitchen. Each participant prepares and donates enough food for fifty or more samples and is given space to serve it at one of several long tables. Contributors bring their own serving dishes, and frequently decorate their space according to the theme.
This event is held is the park in Santa Cruz and tickets are sold on location. In exchange for 100 pesos you get a plate, a fork, and chits for five tastes. Some may be quite generous and on occasion I only used four chits. Before food is served, guests wander among the tables decked with culinary treats to see what is being offered and decide which one they’ll sample first.
A portion of each gastronomic delight is artistically displayed on a plate as if it were to be served in a restaurant. Food to be served might be kept warm in covered steam trays, in giant pottery bowls, or prepared right on site, making the air heavy with delicious aromas wafting from various tables. At 2:30 it’s a mad rush as everyone forms lines to fill their plates!
Long tables are set up among the trees so that people can sit, enjoy their lunch and socialize. The event is well attended by both expats and Mexican nationals, creating a great intercultural experience as everyone mixes together. In addition to great food, various musicians also donate their time and skill, adding a festive ambiance to the afternoon.
The first event was held in April of 2015, and each month supports a different charity in the Huatulco region. Depending on the cause, the theme, and the season; attendance can vary significantly. Obviously in the winter there are more expats in residence, however in May this year, 25 cooks served about 400 people while in June fifteen cooks catered to about 200 guests.
All the money raised at the event goes toward a charity which has been designated the previous month. Once all the food is served, various groups and organizations can state their cause and apply for sponsorship. The cooks themselves vote on which group will benefit the following month as well as what the next theme will be. July benefitted the Asociación de Mujeres de Huatulco (the Huatulco Women’s Association). These women sell tostadas at various locations, including at the organic market in Santa Cruz. Their mission is to assist poor women, often single women with children in villages around Huatulco. They needed 30,000 pesos to purchase a new tostada making machine and I hope they reached their goal. At the time of publication, the theme for August had not been determined, but no doubt it will be something tasty.
Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa, an oceanview B&B in Huatulco.