“It’s tradition in evolution,” says special guest Chef Massimo Bottura of three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy when expressing the similarities between modern-day Italian and Mexican cuisines. “The trend is going back to your roots…[and] not losing the poetry of 1,000 years of tradition,” Bottura adds speaking as a lecturer at the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival. Bottura’s words resonate with me throughout the four days in mid-March where I eagerly float to wine tastings, chef demonstrations, and ten-course meals and sample foods from traditional Maya to the latest techniques in molecular gastronomy.
Each year, Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival welcomes 25 star chefs and 50 wineries from around the world to take part in over 30 events in just four days. This year’s whirlwind weekend focuses on the connection between Italy and Mexico through gatherings that allow chefs and wineries to showcase their best. Restaurants throughout the area welcome festival-goers by creating special menus in case you can’t score a ticket to one of the more sought-after happenings. Each event is individually ticketed and some can be rather expensive (up to $350), though there are discounts through American Express or by booking a festival package. For anyone who has attended the festival in the past will attest, the distance between hotels in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya is quite far. So, to create balance, each year the festival’s host hotel alternates between the two areas.