Meet one of our chefs who weaves his magic in the resort kitchens for your dining pleasure. Juan Manuel Fuentes, Executive Sous Chef is originally from Mexico City and had been with Royal Resorts for eight years.

Juan Manuel says, “I wanted to be a chef from an early age and my family supported me as I pursued my dream. I studied at the Colegio Superior de Gastronomía in Mexico City and after graduation I traveled to the Basque Region of Spain with my wife, who is also a chef, to work. It’s an area with excellent seafood, meat and fruit and vegetables and is famous for pintxos or Basque tapas, mouthwatering morsels that are irresistible. You can try a selection of them in Tradewinds at the Royal Caribbean.

“Eighteen months later, we returned to Mexico and after a year in Mexico City we moved to the Mexican Caribbean. I soon joined Royal Resorts and have been here ever since. My first job was the opening of the restaurants at The Royal Haciendas – Los Murales, La Palapa del Sol, Sol Grill and Luna Grill – and the staff dining room, the resort holds a special place in my heart.

I love being a chef and quite simply wouldn’t want to do anything else. I like contemporary Mexican cuisine, working with fish, prime beef and pastas. Executive Chef Enrique Garcia and I came up with a delicious menu for La Trattoria, our new Italian restaurant at The Royal Cancun. We made it very varied so that there is something for every palate, focusing on flavors, mixes of ingredients and presentation. The secret is in the sauces and we worked very hard on them; one of our most popular dishes is a hearty beef stew, many members say that it reminds them of their childhood. La Trattoria has been a resounding success with members and guests, so much so that we have had parties of 20 or 30 people turn up for dinner from The Royal Sands!

Juan Manuel adds, “We have some exciting projects for 2014-15 and we think that our members and guests will be delighted with the results. In the meantime, we have some treats in store for them at El Conquistador, now open at The Royal Islander and with some new dishes on the menu.

“My job is to assist Chef Enrique with everything from meeting diners, checking food storage and coordinating with restaurant managers to administration, costing, menu design and presentation. This often includes following up on customer comments and seeing how we can improve the dining experience of guests who were not happy with something. We are also catering more for guests with food allergies such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance and providing options for vegetarians. If guests let the restaurant manager know beforehand that they have a food allergy we will do our best to help them.

On the subject of Mexican cuisine Juan Manuel had this to say, “I love the cuisine of my country, it is so diverse and multifaceted, each region has its own signature dishes. Just look at all the dishes you can make with the staple ingredient, corn, everything from drinks to tacos and tamales, main courses and even desserts. And then you have contemporary Mexican cuisine as prepared by our leading chefs who have taken it to new levels and are making a name for themselves on the world stage.

“As we are in the Yucatan, I think members should sample the regional cuisine, for example poc chuc, which is marinated, grilled pork, Mayan BBQ fish or tikinxic, and t’sik, shredded venison with a relish of thinly sliced red onion, coriander, carrot and fragrant lime juice.

“Here in the Royal Resorts, I’d recommend the Fish in Piccatta Sauce with pasta at La Trattoria or the enchiladas verdes at La Palapa. Something new to try at El Conquistador is the coffee crusted fish; at Captain’s Cove any fish cooked on the grill is delicious and the lettuce, apple and Roquefort cheese salad at Los Murales is a marvelous combination.

“Cooking for me is a feast for the senses, it is life, choosing ingredients, seeing how they are transformed, preparing the dish for serving. The magic of the kitchen is opening the fridge door and knowing that whatever combination of ingredients you use, it is going to taste good.

“My message to our members is please give us the opportunity to show you all the dining options and concepts that we have created for you. We look forward to welcoming you to your home away from home.”