Posted April 27, 2011 by Kay Walten in Food,Mexican Culture,Riviera Maya Destinations
Last month, Loco Gringo received word that the Yucatan’s very own Chef David Sterling, owner and head chef of Los Dos Cooking School in Merida, Mexico, is under contract with the University of Texas Press to publish a cookbook. Publication date is scheduled for September 2013.
If I had to give the “elevator pitch” for the book, it would be “Epic Travelogue with Recipes,” says David of his cookbook with the working title “YUCATÁN: A Culinary Expedition.” Part of his goal for the book is to preserve the Yucatan’s ancient foodways, yet balance it with more recent culinary arrivals, like Pastel de Queso de Bola – cake with Edam cheese, yum!
These days, Chef Sterling is traveling frequently through the peninsula, learning recipes from locals and discovering little out-of-the-way places where amazing things are being created, but Loco Gringo had a chance to catch up with David to find out what makes this world class chef cook.
LG: You moved to Merida, Mexico, founded Los Dos Yucatecan cooking school and now your cookbook in progress is described as a “culinary expedition through the Yucatan.” How did the Yucatan and its food become such a passion for you?
DS: I have traveled through Mexico since 1972. During all those years, I also studied Mexican culture, specifically art, archaeology and cuisine. My earliest understanding of ancient Mesoamerican peoples had exclusively to do with the Aztecs and a few other groups elsewhere in Mexico. My first visit to Yucatán was in 1989 and I was struck by the cohesiveness of Maya culture. Not only was it more ancient than the Aztec culture, but also more timeless somehow. The Mayas were enormously inventive and shared many concepts – and foods – with the Aztecs. While the Aztecs had a taste for chocolate, it was supplied to them by the Mayas who cultivated and sold it throughout Mesoamerica. And because the Maya culture is so ancient and so enduring, I believe there are many more ancient dishes than you will find elsewhere in Mexico. So many foods are primal blends of simple maize, beans, squash, tomatoes and chiles. Again it is that timelessness that fascinates me.
LG: Please share with us a particular experience you had or discovery you made during your travels of the Yucatan that stands out in your mind.
DS: I was blown away when I found out that the Mayas cultivated cacao trees as far north as Valladolid. Cacao is enormously fragile; it needs jungle canopy above for shade; rich soils; lots of water, and cooler temperatures. None of that characterizes Yucatán. But the Mayas figured out how to cultivate cacao plants in cenotes – the limestone sinkholes found everywhere here. In them are all the right conditions. There are three or four of these “sacred groves”, as Fray Diego de Landa called them, near Valladolid. I haven’t seen them (they are in ejido property and difficult to access); but amazingly, a Belgian chocolate consortium has purchased land in the Ruta Puuc and are cultivating cacao there. They have about 11,000 plants so far, an immense irrigation system, and they are planting fast-growing trees like yuca and banana to create the shade needed. This is big news, since Maya cacao has finally come home!
LG: What is your favorite Yucatecan dish?
DS: Venado en Pipián Rojo. That is venison in a squash seed sauce, stained red with achiote, thickened with masa, and given a bit of tartness by the Yucatecan ciruela (Spondias purpurea). This rustic dish is so layered with flavors: acidity, smoke (the venison is typically prepared in the Maya pib or underground oven), and earthiness from the squash seeds.
LG: Who do you admire most in the culinary world and why?
DS: Living: Diana Kennedy. She was a real maverick, riding through the rocky roads of Mexico in the 1950s, doing things a woman wasn’t supposed to do. She documented so much of Mexico’s cooking I’m wondering what’s left for me!
Deceased: Julia Child. Another female maverick. She herself marveled at her success and said “I was the right gal for the right job at the right time.” She was brilliant, a good cook, but she was also humble to admit that so much of it was timing.
LG: Do you have any words of wisdom to share with aspiring chefs?
I think the biggest trend in cuisine nowadays is to know the source of our food. But that shouldn’t be just about knowing the farmer who grew it. It should also include knowing a story about the history of the dish. Which culture produced it? How did it evolve? These stories enlighten us, and I’m convinced, aid digestion!
Riviera Maya Activities (218)
Mexican Art (61)
Community Organizations (27)
Mexican Culture (178)
Mexico Destinations (126)
Family vacations (101)
Guest Bloggers (20)
Riviera Maya Photos (303)
Riviera Maya events (79)
Riviera Maya Services (63)
Sustainable Tourism (112)
Vacation tips (64)
Destination Weddings (32)
Loco Adventures (41)
Mayan Ruins (40)
Riviera Maya Destinations (248)
Community Announcements (20)
Mexican Recipes (36)
Riviera Maya Restaurants (74)
Mindful Traveler (49)
Yucatan Activities (47)
Riviera Maya Vacation Tips (154)
Mexico Vacation Tips (163)
Restaurant Reviews (8)
Interview with a Local (15)
Travel Tips (8)
Hyper Local Info (9)
City Information (10)
"And their amazing website is one of the main reasons we started going regularly to the Riviera Maya and especially Akumal. No other place around the Caribbean has nearly as good a web presence as LG has given this area."
--Dan, St. Louis MO,
"So here is a GREAT BIG TEXAS THANK YOU TO LOCO GRINGO for all the awesome, fantastic vacations in Paradise."
"We spent a lot of our time sitting on the second floor porch with our feet propped on the railing just staring at the water. Coming home was hard this year..Staying for two weeks still wasn't long enough."
"Not sure if we will be returning next summer, but will definitely let you know if we are, as Loco Gringo is the ONLY way to go for us!"
--Lesley P., Texas
"I would recommend Locogringo to everyone I know. It is such a great service that they provide from researching and booking the perfect place to stay to finding all the needs you could possibly want during your stay. Thanks Locogringo."
"I had contacted you before I left for my first trip to Mexico and all of your recommendations were spot on. I started in Playa Del Carmen and worked my way to Tulum. I had only expected to stay 2 nights there and instead wound up staying for a week-and that still was not nearly enough time. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks! I will be checking in with you guys as I am tring to plan a trip to Holbox next. That place looks amazing!"
--Louis Skip Gonzalez, Unidos Magazine
"I have booked most of my Mayan Riviera trips through Loco Gringo and can only say I wouldn't even consider using anyone else to handle my bookings for stays in that area.
Their booking process is simple, fast and friendly, and they will answer your questions and queries until you are completely satisfied that every single detail has been taken care of.
Who else would know the area better than folks who live and work right there? Try to get that level of expertise and knowledge with a booking agent who lives and works several hundred, or even thousands of miles away.
Not only that, but they are genuinely nice people as well, who really care for their customers and the community and area that they call home
Keep up the great work Loco Gringo!!"
"Now is a great time to tell you how wonderful you and your staff are at making it so easy to find and book the best vacations, THANK YOU !"
--Joyce & Hugh,
"LocoGringo.com books total trip packages and I recommend LG to all my friends and even to strangers I hear talking about going to Mexico!!"
"Loco Gringos is the VERY BEST booking site I have ever worked with. They respond to emails promptly, work hard to honor special requests, answer questions etc. They ALWAYS take great care of their customers and are conscientious and professional at all times. We have booked 8 trips with this company and NEVER hesitate to use them or recommend them when traveling to the Riviera Maya."
"I will be bragging about your site to any and all who will listen. Our experience was phenomenal!!!"
"All our Riviera Maya trips have been booked using LocoGringo. We love their service."
"Thanks for everything you have done with Locogringo… the site is great and your staff has been nothing short of incredible when it comes to helping us plan our trips. Maybe we’ll run into you on one of your walks some day."
"Both in 2011 and this year we have booked our room through Locogringo.com. We searched and found a great rate at the resort we wanted, and then Locogringo met that price, and with their booking came their amazing customer service and the peace of mind that if we need anything while we are there we simply need to call. I always get a fast turnaround on any email I send them, and they work so hard to find us the best rates and the rooms we want. We hope to have a long relationship with them, and recommend their site to everyone we know."
--Tim A and Teri A, Salem, UT
"People who “live the area” will want to make sure you enjoy your vacation and come back again!"
"We usually need reservations for 2 to 4 people but for 2 years we needed reservations for 7 to 9 people, adults and kids and they have always done a flawless job in getting the resort we wanted and at the best price too!!"
"You always recommend amazing accommodations and we are always comfortable and feel safe. Your staff does a fantastic job at making our vacation each year a ” hassle free ” experience ! All we have to do is ” show up ” and the rest is already taken care of. We will continue in future to use LocoGringo and also continue as we have done already, to highly recommend your company to anyone we know that is planning a vacation."
--Nancy & Bill, Toronto, Canada
"When we use LG to book a trip we get immediate help with all of our questions in a very timely way by people who know what they are talking about and are extremely helpful, patient, knowledgeable, and congenial. They really get how to do customer service.
Once we book through LG we never have to worry about any of it again. We are always amazed at how smooth and trouble free our bookings through LG have been."
--K.B., Fort Worth, TX
"A company made up mostly of American Expats living in the Riviera Maya with a booking list of many hundreds of properties. Big enough to know each property intimately and small enough to know each customer personally. A level of service simply impossible for the giant companies to provide.
--Jim T., Colorado
"...for your patience with me and making this process go soooo much smoother! I truly appreciate you and the staff at LocoGringo. Thanks again! I can't wait to be sitting on the beach!
Maggie in Colorado"
"She & her new Husband had a fantastic hassle free trip. This was their very first time to Mexico and her comment upon return was " Dad, 7 days is NOT enough time ! " Super job, LG."
--Bernie in Denver,
"I just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU! The trip we booked through Loco Gringo was perfect! The price was exceptionally good and the service was second to none! If you’ve never booked with Loco Gringo before, we *highly* recommend them!"
"It's a great comfort to visit the Riviera Maya and know that Loco Gringo is there to help, if needed. "
--Bryan in IN,
"Loco Gringo has an AWESOME website with great info, it is lots of fun to visit, be sure to join their forums. The forums hold more information and trip reports than you can 'shake a stick at'!"
"and for the past five years we have used Loco Gringo for every reservation, I'm sorry that we did not find them sooner.
I have been searching Loco Gringo for all these years and one thing I have not yet found ........... someone who is not fabulous to work with. Great people, great owners and a great way to run a business."
--K & DB, Outer Banks, NC,
"What an amazing company Locogringo is. Every silly question I have.... they answer , If something comes up like a travel day change, adding more people, or whatever it might be... you get a response from a real person ... who seems to love what they do . That is hard to find these days and I really appreciate that."
"It is like having a friend make your reservations for you .... we always feel comfortable knowing LG will be in charge of our arrangements because they know the area first hand, they live there ..... you ask a question and they answer it with good humor and great knowledge of what they speak. I will always recommend Loco Gringo in a heart beat!"
"quick and informative replies from Bart ( thanks Bart) , easy booking procedure plus online management of your booking . I am highly impressed."
--Theressa - Middlesex U.K.,
"Go to the home page or check the forum."
""I was soooo delighted with the Loco Gringo services. Everything was trouble free and all my questions were always answered promptly. Thanks for a GREAT trouble free vacation!""
"We have been Booking our Riviera Maya vacations from Loco Gringo since 2005. Always Great communication, helpful tips and quick responses to our questions. They were especially helpful when Hurricane Wilma hit and put a stop to our Vacation plans. They made sure we knew about the weather situation and did all the work with re-booking our vacation in Paradise!"
* Denotes A Required Field
How much are you thinking about spending?