Mexico Cooking School Vacations: Cook in the Yucatan
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Culinary Yucatan
Mérida, Yucatán

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About the location: There is Mexico… and then there is Yucatán. The region and the country share much, yet their histories diverge at many points. Yucatán is the land of the Mayas, Mexico's second largest extant indigenous group. The food is also different, characterized by the infamous habanero, one of the world’s hottest chiles, and has much in common with Caribbean and European cuisine, making it an ideal spot for a unique culinary vacation in Mexico. Pit-smoked meats, plantains, Dutch cheeses, Portuguese sausages and Lebanese specialties are some of the typical foods of the region, a surprise to those expecting traditional Mexican! Culturally, the region has its own music, dance and literature, and of course, the Maya archaeological sites known throughout the world.

The capital city Mérida was once home to the world’s largest per capita population of millionaires. It is now experiencing a resurgence, attracting travelers from all over the globe who are discovering its many charms. Your home for your week-long Mexican culinary tour the boutique 5* Casona 61 Hotel designed with particular attention to detail, both modern and colonial. A luxury hotel upgrade is also available with accommodations at the 5* Hacienda Xcanatun, which offers only luxurious suites.

About the lessons: In such a setting is a cooking school devoted to 100% comida yucateca. Founded by the late Chef David Sterling, a New York transplant and long-time resident of Mexico, the cooking school has for over a decade been dedicated to understanding and teaching Yucatecan cuisine. After Chef David's death in late 2016 the school was taken up by his team, and in particular Chef Mario, who was his right-hand man for 12 years. He will be your chef and guide during your stay. Chef Mario was an integral part of the Chef David's James Beard Award-winning "Best Cookbook of the Year" in 2015. The cooking school has been featured in numerous publications such as Travel and Leisure, The New York Times, Elle Mexico, Condé-Nast Traveler, and has been included in Rick Bayless’s television program, “Mexico: One Plate at a Time" as well as with Martha Stewart on her popular show.

Culinary Yucatan Itinerary

Day 1

  • Arrival at Mérida International Airport.
  • Transfer to your boutique hotel.
  • Time to relax, with dinner on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 2

  • Continental breakfast at your hotel.
  • In the morning, Chef Mario will greet you at the cooking school and invite you into his kitchen, where he will present an overview of Yucatán’s unique ingredients and culinary heritage.
  • Stroll with him through the sprawling and colorful central market where you will see piles of recados, seasoning blends similar to the curries that are a unique feature of Yucatecan cuisine.
  • Lunch in a local restaurant that features the finest regional cuisine. Chef Mario’s team will help you navigate the menu as you sample several Yucatecan specialties.
  • Return to the hotel in the late afternoon with a budding understanding of the complex flavors of the Yucatan.
  • Dinner tonight on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 3

  • Breakfast.
  • To help you get your bearings, in the morning take a specially-guided tour of this magnificent colonial city. Stroll around Plaza Principal and tour the Cathedral, the oldest in the American mainland.
  • Arrive at the cooking school, where you will meet local Maya women who will instruct you in the fine art of making tortillas by hand; afterwards, snack on your creations.
  • Your first cooking class to follow. Possible dishes include sopa de lima, pollo asado, tamales de x’pelón, and crema de cilantro.
  • Mid afternoon, you will be seated in the colorful dining room for lunch, also known as the comida fuerte, main meal of the day (wine/beer included).
  • Return to the hotel; evening at leisure and overnight.

Day 4

  • Following breakfast, excursion to the charming colonial city of Izamál.
  • Tour the monastery and church of Izamál, built atop the base of an ancient Maya pyramid. Afterward you will enjoy a caleza (horse and buggy) ride through town, past several large intact pyramids that remain of the ancient city.
  • In the early afternoon, visit restaurant Kinich Kak-moo, located at the foot of a looming pyramid. Here you will enjoy a typical Yucatecan feast for lunch.
  • Return to the hotel with some time to relax.
  • In the evening, depart for dinner at a popular Merida restaurant.
  • Return to hotel and overnight.

Day 5

  • Breakfast.
  • Depart for an excursion to Hacienda Vista Alegre, a restored 17th-century hacienda, whose current inhabitants operate a distillery on the grounds that produces the famous Yucatecan honey/anise liqueur Xtabentun, as well as a variety of incredible rums. You can also enjoy a small botanical garden and orchard where grow many typical and unusual varieties unique to Yucatán, such as chico zapote — the famous chewing gum tree!
  • Transfer to the school for another session of cooking instruction to be followed by the comida fuerte.
  • After class, return to the hotel; evening on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 6

  • Breakfast.
  • Today is a romantic and exotic excursion into the heart of Maya Yucatán. First, we drive to Uxmal — considered the most beautiful of the Maya archaeological zones and inspiration to Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • After your guided tour of Uxmal, stop at the tiny pueblo of Santa Elena, where you will visit a Maya family living as the Mayas have lived for the past century.
  • On the way back to Mérida, stop at the five-star Hacienda Temozon, one of the Luxury Collection owned by Starwood. The setting is magnificent and you will enjoy the beautiful presentation and updated classics of Yucatecan fare for lunch.
  • Transfer back to the hotel with some time to relax.
  • In the evening, depart for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant that offers the best in regional fusion cuisine.
  • Overnight.

Day 7

  • Breakfast followed by check out.
  • Transfer to Mérida International Airport. Adios!