In today’s episode I talk with David Sterling, who was born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK. He was always intrigued by art and food even at a young age. David was obsessed with Julia Child. His partner Keith and he moved away from New York City after 9/11. Their place was just 5 blocks from the World Trade Center. David had been to Mexico many times throughout his life and both he and Keith loved it there. They found a place to call home in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. They bought an old ruin complete with trees growing out of the ceiling and floors. It took them 14 months to renovate the whole place to get it up to inhabitable standards.
David started the only cooking school in Mexico called Los-Dos in November 2003. He is the author of the cookbook Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition. In 2015, David won a few awards: James Beard Foundation for The Best Cookbook of the Year, James Beard Foundation for Best International Cookbook and The Art of Eating Prize for Best Food Book of the Year. He has been on shows with Martha Stewart and Rick Bayless. David’s passion is Yucatecan Food.
Cooking Classes at Los-Dos
The cooking classes have a variety of range; anyone from an avid home cook to a gourmet chef. Every class focuses on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Mayan Culinary Culture. Los-Dos offers one day workshops that are a full intensive day of cooking and eating. There are three day and weeklong packages as well, which also include food excursions to different places.
Tasting Tours at Los-Dos
Los-Dos also has tasting tours that do not involve cooking. The tours are about 3 to 4 hours. One of the tasting tours is a Cantina Crawl, on which you will be taken to a range of different Cantinas, where you pay for the drinks and the food is free. This will give you a great taste of the Yucatan Culture. There is also another tour called the Street Eats Tour.
What is a Solar?
There are several families in Uxmal who manage what they call a Solar, best described as a kitchen garden. This common practice in the Mayan world is a way of supplementing their regular diets consisting of corn, beans, and squash. These Solars have all kinds of chilies, tomatoes, and things you might not find on the farm like turkeys and pigs just running around. They have edible and medicinal stuffs in these Solars as well, all very fascinating to see.
Where did the idea for your cookbook, Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, stem from?
It resulted from those years back in New York City. He likes stories about food and wants to know where it came from, who made it, and where it originated? He complied many of the stories he came across and started posting them on his website. Finally, in 2009 he received a call from an English lady named Diana Kennedy. She is the authority of Mexican food in the English Language. David and Keith got to know Diana pretty well and she introduced David to her editor Casey Kittrell at University of Texas Press. He then submitted his book proposal to Casey and after 3 years of putting his nose to the grindstone, his cookbook got published.
Do you have two or three typical foods that people need to try to appreciate the culture?
Go check out the Sigueff in Merida and order the Huevos Motulenos, it is a refried bean smeared tostada with fried eggs, tomato sauce, ham, peas, and grated cheese. While in Valladolid, you need to go to the El Meson del Margues and try the pickled turkey. It’s so delicious, tart, and tangy.
Please tune into the podcast to learn more from Chef David Sterling about his interesting endeavors and to gain more in-depth knowledge on the uniqueness of the Yucatan Cuisine. Also listen in as David discusses being featured on Rick Bayless’s Show called Mexico-One Plate at a Time. The new season starts in September 2016 on PBS.