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Nicholas Gilman is a renowned journalist and food writer based in Mexico City.

Nicholas Gilman es un renombrado periodista gastronómico radicado en la Ciudad de México.

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Postcard from Oaxaca: The Gourmet Awards

Postcard from Oaxaca: The Gourmet Awards

When it comes to gastronomy, I don’t give much credence to best lists, awards, prizes and the politics that invariably accompany them. There has been much controversy within the professional culinary community about who and why S. Pellegrino 50 Best has chosen who they have. A New Yorker reporter interviewed me and several colleagues here a couple of years ago trying to extract juicy gossip about the inner workings of the Latin 50. One restaurant owner, in his cups, made reference to inclusion for the kind of favors better left unsaid. I knew to whom he was referring, and the reporter knew I knew: she tried to pry it out of me but I wouldn’t talk. Who really knows.

Michelin, meanwhile and its meticulous system of inspection by very knowledgeable researchers, while to many increasingly irrelevant, is at least reliable and relatively scandal-free.

In Mexico we don’t have Michelin. We do have Culinaria Mexicana’s well researched “120 Mejores Restaurantes” guide, for which about 40 of the country’s top food writers and editors earnestly vote.  As I am amongst them, I can honestly report that voting is swayed only by the CDMX-centric nature of the judges, and that every effort is made to expand beyond the borders of the capital. There also exist a couple of highly commercial, less than scrupulous guide books and sites as well as umpteen blogs, Instagram and twitter accounts of varying quality.

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The Gourmet Awards, in its eighth year, bills itself as “the Oscars of Gastronomy”  and is backed by Travel & Leisure magazine. Prizes, chosen by a small group of reporters, editors, food photographers and high-profile media personalities, are doled out at a ceremonial dinner, Oscars-style. The good news is that a concerted effort is made to include and recognize chefs and restaurants from the four corners of the Republic, as well as from local venues, in this year’s case, Oaxaca.

This reporter and a select group of food/travel writers as well as many renowned chefs, were schlepped down to Oaxaca City last week to present, receive and report on the winners. The gala dinner, held in “La Calera”, a converted mineral refinery, combined Hollywood-style Chanel & pearls glamour with down to earth, hard working industry earnestness. The joy many young and not so young chefs expressed was genuine and redeemed what could have been seen as a decadent, Champagne-soaked back-patting fest.

 Gabi & Lalo of Máximo: Best of the Best

Gabi & Lalo of Máximo: Best of the Best

The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the moment the top prize, named in English “Best of the Best” was awarded to the very much deserving Máximo Bistrot. Chef Lalo García, who tends to shun the commercial/social side of the restaurant world and has limited patience for schmoozing, and his wife co-proprietor Gabriela Lopez Cruz were genuinely proud to receive their “G” shaped statuette. They have toiled for years at what is possibly the finest and inarguably most consistent kitchen in the country.


 Los hermanos Rivera-Rio of Koli take a prize

Los hermanos Rivera-Rio of Koli take a prize

The three young Rivera-Rio brothers of Monterrey’s Koli exuberantly took their prize for beautiful plating and that’s saying something as the artsy visuals are highly competitive in color-filled Mexico.

New opening in Mexico City went to Meroma, an unpretentious colonia Roma bistro run by a skilled Mexican/American couple, Mercedes Bernal and Rodney Cusic.


Le Chique, the undervalued gem near Cancún that celebrates Mexican gastronomy through post-modern eyes was recognized for its ‘degustastión’ (tasting menu).

 Representing Baja California: David Castro Hussong & Javier Plascencia

Representing Baja California: David Castro Hussong & Javier Plascencia

The ‘most promising chef’ award went to David Castro Hussong of the picturesque and unpretentiously creative Fauna in the Valle de Guadalupe. Baja was again lauded as Drew Deckman grabbed the ‘regional cuisine’ prize.

In the same regional vein, Celia Florian the tireless promotor of traditional Oaxacan cooking at her Las Quince Letras, was given an ovation as she accepted a well-deserved trophy for her work in the category of ‘trayectoria de cocinera tradicional’.

As happy winners, gracious runners up and exhausted reporters chomped on tacos of grilled tasajo nursing hangovers at the market the next morning, the many briefly abandoned restaurant kitchens, best and nearly so, began to be repopulated by their proprietors. I and many of my colleagues were pleased with the choices, and as always,, take it all with a grain of salt.

 Chef Celia Florian of Oaxaca’s Las Quince Letras and CDMX’ Pasillo de Humo takes a trophy

Chef Celia Florian of Oaxaca’s Las Quince Letras and CDMX’ Pasillo de Humo takes a trophy

 Jonatan Gómez Luna of Le Chique is a winner

Jonatan Gómez Luna of Le Chique is a winner

A partial list of nominees (winners in bold) are below:

Best of the best:
Koli
Pangea
Pujol
Máximo Bistrot
Le Chique

Restaurante Nuevo:
Fauna
Cometa
Hato
Los Compas
Arca

Apertura CDMX
Meroma
Carmela y Sal
Masala y Maiz
Sartoria
Cercano Comedor

Mejor Arte al Plato
Quintonil
Dulce Patria
Koli
Pujol
Áperi

 Mejor Restaurante Local
Casa Oaxaca
Criollo
Pitonia
Origen
Las Quince Letras

Mejor Experiencia de Vino
Loretta
Pangea
Eloise
Lorea
Pujol

Mejor Experiencia Dulce
Rosetta
Cercano Comedor
Eloise
Meroma
Hotel Carlota

Restaurante de Hotel
Augurio
Cocina de Autor Riviera Maya
Le Chique
Fauna
Áperi

 Mejor Casual Dining
Magno Brasserie
Loretta
Havre77
Palreal
Agua y Sal

Mejor Menu Degustación
Le Chique
Koli
Pangea
Quintonil
Pujol

Mejor Servicio
Pangea
Le Chique
Koli
Eloise
Pujol

 Chef Promesa
David Castro Hussong (Fauna, Valle de Guadalupe)
Mercedes Bernal y Rodney Cusic (Meroma, CDMX)
Elsa Olmos (Cercano Comedor, CDMX)
José Luis Hinostroza (Arca, Tulum)
Israel Loyola (Jacinto 1930, San Miguel de Allende)

Mejor Cocina Regional
Pasillo de Humo (Oaxaca)
Palreal (Jalisco)
La Tradicion (Yucatan)
El Mural de los Poblanos (Puebla)
Deckman´s Baja California)

Mejor coctelería

Carmela y Sal
Jazamango
Moyuelo
Áperi
Jacinto 1930

Dim Sum Heaven @ Fulihua

Dim Sum Heaven @ Fulihua

Last Stop: Terminal Juárez

Last Stop: Terminal Juárez