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An introduction to Mexican gastronomy
An introduction to Mexican gastronomy  - Vatel

An introduction to Mexican gastronomy

Claudia Verver y Vargas, who teaches corporate strategy at Vatel Bordeaux, was born in Mexico and tells us more about Mexican gastronomy, which is a part of Unesco’s cultural heritage, for Tables Vatel’s Mexican Week.

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This week will take place between 3rd and 8th of april. 

Where does your passion for cooking come from?
From my grandmother. We go there every Saturday. She loves cooking.There were thirty of us last Christmas. I love cooking tasty dishes and I also love sharing them with others. 

What do you appreciate about Mexican gastronomy? 
It’s wealth. In just one dish, you’ve got all of Mexico’s history: from pre-Spanish influence up to the Spanish, colonial and modern times. 

Take our taste buds on a trip. What is your favorite Mexican dish? 
Cochinita pibil!Its a pork-based dish made with bitter orange juice and achiote (a slightly spicy red herb).That gives your dishes a sweet side without too much caramelization. At the end, you pull the meat apart and put it into tacos and serve it with a salad of red onions and pickles that were marinated in lime juice. And you can’t forget habereo peppers, which are tiny, very hot, and personify the South of Mexico. You cook this on low heat.Back in the olden days, this preparation was heated up in a banana leaf buried underground. As it’s really hot, this leaf played the role of an oven at low temperature. Everyone’s got their own recipe. For instance, my grandmother added tomatoes. 

Which wine would be good with Cochinita pibil? 
I would recommend a dry white wine, Chenin Blanc de le Casa Modero. 

And your favorite dessert? 
Capirotada, which is a dessert people in Mexico really like, especially during Lent. 
It’s a type of Mexican pudding, made from bolillos, which is a type of Mexican bread. We then add spices and piloncillo. Piloncillo is a type of sugar, more precisely, a piece of solid sugar cane juice.That goes back to inhabitants of the pre-Spanish era and that’s how they sweetened their food. We do the same thing. 

You’ve headed several projects. What advice would you give to a young Vatel alumnus who would like to open a restaurant in Mexico, for instance? 
I’d repeat what I tell my Vatel Bordeaux students in my Corporate Strategy course.If you’ve only got a hammer as a tool, for you everything will be a nail. That means that each and every detail is important.
Moreover, this is a very competitive market in Mexico because of internationalization and its 25 million inhabitants. You must be creative, and not necessarily follow what’s working right now.  Last but not least, compared with France, regulations and expenses are quite a bit lower. This makes things easier. On the other hand, however, there’s not the same social protection. 

Tell us about the Tables Vatel Mexican Week. 
It’s a week targeting Mexican gastronomy. Mexican artists such as Ivan Torres, a well-known painter and Jano Arios, a very talented musician, take part in it. Mexican gastronomy is not forgotten with special Mexican Accord Parfait evenings and Sunday brunches. And Mexican wines and traditional spirits (Tequila Mezcal) are hits in afterwork events. There’s something for everyone.

One question about current events. Now hamburgers have replaced ham sandwiches as the most popular sandwich in France. How do you explain this change? 
Before, you could only get hamburgers in fast-food restaurants, but today nearly all restaurants have them (85%). Customers are looking for quality dishes with good products, but also inexpensive ones, even if this means having less to eat. And a lot of efforts have recently been made to increase traceability of products, especially for meat. So, the success of the hamburger can be explained by these latest trends. 

Another trend, meat substitution products that look like meat, taste and feel like meat, but are of vegetal origin. What’s your opinion on them? 
The jury is still out here. These substitution products are useful to feed the world’s population, but they don’t replace a good steak! 

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