About a month ago I stayed at the Fairmont Mayakoba on the Riviera Maya. While there I was pleasantly surprised with the resort’s commitment to sustainability, particularly in their restaurants, two of which are AAA Four Diamond Award Winners. I was impressed with the chef’s garden, the use of sustainable seafood, the lobster bought from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and their not shying away from the likes of geoduck, tiradito, and Mexican wine. The Fairmont Mayakoba’s Executive Chef, David Andrews, was kind enough to give us this interview:
1.) New World Review: What was your path to becoming Executive chef of the Fairmont Mayakoba?
David Andrews: My path began about 20 years ago when I left England for Germany. I have since worked in Bermuda, Austria, California, Florida and then Mexico gaining vital and valuable experience that lead me to Fairmont Mayakoba.
2.) NWR: How difficult is it to promote sustainable culinary practices into a large resort? Is there more that you can do?
DA: I believe you must implement the culture at its roots with the colleagues, if you have them on board the rest just falls into place. Promotions and Communications are key and we do a great job with the help of the PR department.
3.) NWR: I noticed when I was at the hotel that you have a chef’s garden near the main pool area. How much produce/herbs are you able to use in the restaurants there? What are you growing?
DA: I have had the plans for that garden for over 3 years and I finally was able to live my dream. We have in the garden the following > Pineapple, Papaya, Banana, Orange, Lime, Lemon, Mandarin, Tomato, Cactus, Aloe Vera, Basil, Cilantro, Mint, Peppermint, Radish, Carrots and Cherry Tomato. The idea is to promote organic and sustainable products that can give the guest that experience. For example in a few months we will be able to use the pineapple and papaya for organic martinis in the bar and create some revenue from that. So there are many ways we can promote this. I am doing tours of the garden with cooking classes after.
4.) NWR: I noticed you were growing Blue Agave in the garden. There’s obviously not enough to make tequila from it, but are you able to use it in any other way. I’m a big fan of Agave Nectar (Miel de Agave) in margaritas and for use as a sweetener. Do you make it onsite?
DA: We will do that, yes, as this is a great natural sweetener.
5.) NWR: Tell me about the lobster you use in the restaurant. I’ve read that it comes from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve but are caught in a sustainable way.
DA: We have a great relationship with the reserve and we do use their Lobster as well as other products that they sell. This sells the dish without out even the upsell from the waiter.
7.) NWR: What percent of the ingredients that you use in the restaurant come from the Yucatan? What issues would arise if you only purchased your ingredients from the surrounding area?
DA: We use around 20% of the ingredients; we need to use products from other regions as our client base and market changes all the time. Our offerings need to be in line with what our guests are requesting. Saying that, we stay authentically local in our Laguna restaurant, which has the vast majority of Yucatan products.
8.) NWR: Do you have a favorite dish from the Yucatan? What is it and why?
DA: Cochinita Pibil. Very distinctive and full of flavor. The cooking technique is also a driver for me.
9.) NWR: Do you serve it at any of the Fairmont restaurants? If so, how is your preparation different?
DA: Yes in Laguna. We cook it like an ossobuco and serve it on the bone so the guest just has to peel it off.
10.) NWR: Outside of the Fairmont, do you have a favorite restaurant on the Riviera Maya?
DA: Yes it is called Tinto, a Peruvian Steak House.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.