Chef Jorge Vallejo, a protégé of Pujol’s Enrique Olvera, is a proponent of Mexican cuisine and its modern iterations. For his latest venture, however, he is stepping off the beaten track and into history to mine the culinary history of the Mayan people for his restaurant Ixi’im.
Ixi’im, the signature restaurant of the Chablé Resort & Spa, Yucatan Mexico, uses modern and ancient culinary techniques to recreate traditional flavours with locally produced ingredients that highlight Mexican culture.
Starting with corn, which Vallejo explains, the pillar of not only Mexican food, but also culture, the ingredient is democratic. The cuisine is based on the pureness of the product and the restaurant’s mission is to define the Mayan dining experience.
Much of the ingredients that end up on the plate at Ix’im start in the restaurant’s vegetable garden, and the rest is locally produced, such as escolar, the buttery fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico.
The restaurant is set in on the site of a 19th-century plantation that manufactured rope and which always had a strong tie to the local Mayan culture.
"The people here, they are very proud about their culture," Vallejo told CBS. "They are actually the ones that keep the tradition. They are the ones that keep the flavours. They are the ones that keep the environment."
With his flagship Mexico City restaurant Quintonil already at #22 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, the chef has the perfect platform to promote his passion for a rich and sophisticated culinary cuisine that, while currently enjoying a renaissance, would have been lost if not for the efforts of locals to preserve this precious knowledge for future generations.
"I feel, you know, very proud about what we achieved already," he said. "But as I told you, I'm still learning. So, for me, of course, it's as you're saying, 'mission accomplished,' but still not finished."