Some people are born with a chispa or spark of creative genius and this is certainly the case with Erika B., the new Executive Sous Chef at The Royal Sands in Cancun. She says, “Ever since I was little I loved being in the kitchen cooking for family and friends. It became my passion and I was always trying new recipes and inventing flavor combinations. By the time I was in my teens I knew that I wanted to be a chef.”
Erika studied Gastronomy at the Instituto Gastronómico Corbuse in Mexico City, her hometown. After graduation she turned her sights on the Mexican Caribbean and traveled to Cancún in search of work. That was 10 years ago and since then she has steadily moved up the career ladder in the hospitality industry. Her first job was with the Oasis Group as Kitchen Supervisor and then Specialty Chef. In 2009, she joined Grand Velas Riviera Maya where she was responsible for a bistro, room service and a snack bar.Three years later, she moved to Secrets Maroma Beach as line chef in two restaurants, specializing in fusion cuisine, chilled dishes, kosher food and banquets. She was responsible for the hotel’s applications for Distintivo H, AAA and Five Diamonds certification. In early 2015, she was recruited by Excellence Riviera Maya as line chef in the resort’s Spanish restaurant and began training as a Junior Sous Chef. In December 2015, she returned to Secrets Maroma Beach as Executive Sous Chef in charge of a team of 12 line chefs and 112 cooks and with special responsibility for events, weddings, menu planning and achieving Distintivo H recertification for the resort.
Part of the Royal Resorts Restaurant team since February 2017
Erika joined Royal Resorts in February 2017 as Executive Sous Chef at The Royal Sands. She has a staff of five line chefs and 35 cooks and her responsibilities include day-to-day kitchen management, quality control and presentation, menu creation and administration. She works closely with The Royal Sands Restaurant Manager and reports to the Royal Resorts Executive Chef.
Erika comes to Royal Resorts brimming with enthusiasm and fresh ideas. She says, “My goal is to create a gourmet menu full of taste experiences and contemporary signature cuisine and with sterling service to match; something that is truly exceptional for the dining pleasure of our members and guests. She also has a message for the many members who have their own favorite dishes that they order year after year. “Changes will be gradual at La Veranda and they will still be able to find the dishes that they love.”
This dynamic young chef has already introduced some of her ideas. The sushi menu at Sand Dollar has been changed and has a more contemporary gourmet, even boutique feel. There are tasty new dishes to try on the La Veranda buffets and she has been cooking up a storm with special menus for weddings, romantic dinners on the beach and other events.
Erika has also turned her attention to The Royal Sands theme nights, introducing Brazilian Rodizio on Mondays as part of the International Night, freshly made pasta for Italian Seafood Night and a la carte open-air dining and buffet service on Fridays. She also wants to implement a Mexican Night to celebrate the diversity of the national cuisine.
During the day guests who are feeling hungry can snack on snacks such as pulled pork rolls, ceviche, grilled chicken from the La Casita food hut on the pool deck in Phase I and there’s the ever-popular paella on Sunday afternoon.
One of Erika’s most popular innovations to date is the “Wow” moment. Once a month she and her entire team leave the kitchen to meet members and guests around the pool and offer them canapés and other mouthwatering treats. The July wow moment this year coincided with the July 4 United States Independence Day celebrations.
Erika says, “I love creating dishes and experiences with the wow factor. The presentation of a dish is really important, I always try to do something different so that the food not only tastes delicious but also looks fantastic. When I prepare a dish, I like to go to the table afterwards and meet the diners. I want them to notice the difference.”
When asked about the types of cuisine Erika likes to cook, she replies, “I love fusion cuisine, working with essences, oils, herbs, spices and even dry ice to create a harmonious blend of flavors, textures and fragrances, a veritable feast for the senses. My inspiration comes from flavors and colors and how to combine them. When I plate up a dish I look at all the ingredients and think about how to create a work of art, one that tastes as good as it looks. I was born with this chispa or spark.
A world of Mexican flavors
“Italian and Mexican cuisine are firm favorites of mine,” Erika adds, “Mexican cuisine is so rich in ingredients; it really is a world unto itself. For example, we have so many varieties of chili, heritage corn, mangos, bananas, four types of beetroot and an array of herbs and that’s just for starters, I could go on and on. There is so much to play with, to invent new flavor combinations and this is what the new wave of Mexican chefs such as Enrique Olvera and Javier Stone – who are both award-winners – are doing. I would love to be like them.
“I think that Mexican cuisine is one of the world’s most important cuisines, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and it is taking its rightful place on the international stage and receiving the acclaim it deserves.
“I have added Mexican dishes to the La Veranda buffets every day, for example different varieties of enchiladas on Wednesday and the classic Yucatecan pork dish cochinita pibil. I really want to organize a Mexican festival like a Feria de Mole so that our members and guests can try a traditional dish that is always served at Mexican fiestas. There are different types of mole sauce in Puebla and Oaxaca made with different chilies, herbs and spices, even guava and banana, and they should try its smooth and sophisticated flavors. “
Erika is joining an elite group of women who have made their mark on the world of Mexican cuisine. She is following in the footsteps of Martha Ortiz Chapa and the likes of Alicia Gironella, Carmen Titita Ramirez, Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Monica Patiño and Patricia Quintana. She says, “Patricia Quintana gave lectures at my college and I used to listen and think, I want to be like her some day. When I did my work experience I was assigned to a chef called Isabel who had worked in El Bulli, Ferran Adrià’s famous restaurant in Spain and I dreamed of being an Executive Chef too. This is my goal and I will achieve it one day.
“I guess I witnessed the transition from traditional Mexican cuisine to modern Mexican cuisine and there is plenty of space in the kitchen for both. I think our visitors should try both to experience the sheer diversity that is our gastronomic heritage.
“I want our members and guests to be happy and have an exceptional dining experience at The Royal Sands,” Erika adds, “and for our members who return year after year I want to prepare something different for them each time. The Royal Sands is a beautiful resort and my job is to implement tempting changes in the restaurants that will be the icing on the cake, so to speak.”
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