My Mexican Kitchen was born from a love of food — mainly the full-bodied, spicy food that makes your toes tingle.
A few of weeks ago I spent a delightful evening with six new friends learning how to make some delicious Mexican seafood dishes at My Mexican Kitchen in Bucerias. Run by the dynamic duo of chefs, Travis Dietz and Edgar Garcia Cordova, My Mexican Kitchen offers cooking classes several nights per week.
Travis, originally from Oregon, and Edgar from Puebla, Mexico, met in Bucerias some years ago and decided to make it their home. Through their company, My Mexican Kitchen, offering both catering services and cooking classes, they are able to share their passion for authentic, unadulterated Mexican cuisine.
“What I like to show in class is real, traditional Mexican food, that is completely different from what you often find up north. Mexican food is much more than burritos and nachos,” says Edgar as he deftly roasts a poblano pepper on a hot comal griddle. “I also want to show that Mexican food is actually very healthy and based on natural ingredients, not processed ones.”
Edgar, who grew up in a large Mexican family that had various restaurants, also points out that you don’t need a lot of gadgets or appliances to make traditional dishes. A good knife, a comal, a tortilla press and a lime squeezer are the “workhorses” of Mexican chefs. But every kitchen also needs a blender. Travis adds that with a limited palette of ingredients (tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies and corn flour) you can make an amazing number of dishes.
An evening with the chefs not only teaches students how to cook various dishes, but it also sheds light on Mexican culinary customs. Travis informed us that for most Mexicans, lunch is the main meal of the day and that seafood is a lunchtime dish because it’s light and cool for the body. That probably explains why my favourite fish taco stand in Bucerias closes in the evenings.
“Mexicans love food but we have a lot of rules,” adds Edgar. “We eat five times a day. Around 5 a.m., we have desayuno, usually coffee and a roll. Later in the morning we have almurezo, perhaps huevos rancheros and refried beans. Cena, the main meal of the day, is taken mid-afternoon. Around 9 p.m. it’s time for a snack at the taco stand. Finally, just before bedtime we have Mexican coffee and a roll. Salsas are a big part of our diet and a way to spice up our food.”
I had signed up for their multi-course seafood class. Our group gathered around a tiled table. We were each given a knife, cutting board, apron and recipe book. With directions from our chefs we created cucumber/lime agua fresca, crab empanadas with garlic/chili salsa, shrimp soup, roasted chili poblano stir-fry and dorado filets drenched in a garlic/chili sauce—a veritable Piscean feast.
Along the way we learned all sorts of culinary tricks including how to de-seed and roast peppers. All of their classes include a recipe for Mexican fruit infused aqua fresca and at least one salsa.
The motto at My Mexican Kitchen is, “Learn or just enjoy.” Folks are given lots of opportunity to participate in the preparation, but if you’d rather sit back, enjoy some snacks and wait until dinner is ready, that’s fine too.
“Our most popular class is Salsas and Appetizers,” says Travis. “We sometimes call it the ‘Chilies 101 class’. It is a great jumping off point to learn how to use that very basic Mexican ingredient—the chili.” Indeed, Travis taught us much about the complexity of various chilies and how their flavours and heat volume change depending upon whether they are roasted, boiled or sautéed in oil. Not all chili peppers are Hades hot, but if you do get some chili oil on your fingers, it’s more effective to wash your hands with shampoo than soap.
“Remember,” says Edgar, “chilies are Mexican so they don’t follow rules!”
Trying to teach seven people how to make a five-course dinner from scratch could be a disaster if you’re not organized, but Travis and Edgar have mastered the art of making everything look easy and they encourage folks to have fun, bring their own wine and ask lots of questions. As such, the classes are also a springboard to talk about various other aspects of Mexican culture and where to eat locally.
After all the slicing, dicing and cooking, the evening at Mexican Kitchen culminates in sitting down at a round table and enjoying the fruits of our labours.
“For me,” remarks Travis, “travel is a chance to partake in the culture of your destination and food is such a mirror of a culture. So our idea for My Mexican Kitchen seemed like a good way to combine enjoying a cultural activity and eating good food.”
Travis and Edgar run several classes per week and they are constantly changing the menus. The evening ends with Mexican café de olla laced with cinnamon, cane sugar and a shot of almond or aged Tequila. Cost per class per person starts at approximately $55 U.S. Buen provecho.
Note: My Mexican Kitchen in moving in November 2019 to Calle Agustine Melgar, #9 in Bucerias.
Anita Draycott is a freelance travel journalist from Toronto who has chosen to spend her winters in the Puerto Vallarta area for the past decade.