He stands before us like any simple guy, in sandals and jeans. No pretensions. His fresh image inspires me with confidence as I sit to enjoy what ultimately will be a conversation rather than a conference. Enrique Olvera takes a chair and invites us to sit down while he tells us about his restaurant in Mexico City (Pujol) and about how he and his wife are looking to achieve the tomato’s self-sustainability. “It’s really hard to agree with producers,” he comments, aware that the key to all good cooking is, obviously, the ingredients; the visible but invisible star of every good dish and whose quality will directly impact the quality of a final dish.
Enrique knows firsthand that Mexican cuisine has been included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list; however, he does not take this lightly. “That Mexican cuisine is included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage list is not an award, it’s a commitment.” And he also know that it’s a commitment that is threatened by many factors: the insertion of GM crops, poverty in the fields, climate change and a long list that has the gourmet kitchen world hanging by a thread. “Hairless pigs are an example,” someone from the public shouts. “Only 4 hairless pigs a month are produced.” These animals are basic to one of the most traditional dishes of the Yucatan Peninsula: cochinita pibil. And there are no producers investing in producing more hairless pigs because a stable consumption has not been fostered to justify this production.
Somebody from the audience resumes the topic of him and his wife’s interaction with the tomato production. “We are weird in Mexico,” Enrique replies. “Everybody else in the world eats 80% protein and 20% sauce. In Mexico it’s the other way around; we eat 80% sauce and 20% protein in stews such as mole. We produce a tomato variety that has the ideal ratio of seeds, pulp and peel for Mexican food. In other countries, beefsteak tomato is the most popular. Here, saladette is.”
About the quality of ingredients, Enrique emphasizes the importance of a good producer-restaurant relationship. “We work with producers very closely; we pay producers from the chinampas cash and in advance. We need to give them a fair share and understand the needs of the small producer to keep a fair trade.” With each sentence, Enrique is making his audience fall in love. He is a coherent guy whose down-to-earth manner goes hand in hand with the things we listen to. His interest in fair trade and his (apparently, total) understanding of the production situation in Mexico gives us a calm reassurance.
— Enrique, do you believe that wine producers are
following the right path for the pairing of wine with Mexican food?
— I consider that wine producers are doing what they need to do. And, for example, I consider that beer producers are doing a great job by not worrying about making a dense beer, but rather a light and easy to drink beer. Mexican food tastes very good with beer.
And I want to take his word for it. It is a very warm day and it is almost one o’clock in the afternoon, so it’s a good moment to have a beer. I am going to go look for it after the pleasant experience of having spent some time with a cooking professional… definitely an experience to remember from the Cancun-Riviera Maya Food & Wine Festival.
Grand Residences by Royal Resorts® was a proud sponsor of the 2013 Cancun & Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival and is looking forward to next year’s event which will be held on March 14-16 and will also feature a tribute to France. Don’t miss it!