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Interview with Chef of Gastronomia, Merida

Interview with Andres – a local cooking school chef

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In the kitchen with Andres

This was a local cooking school. It had around 44 students; usually it offers classes to make bocadillos (sandwiches), pastelleria (cakes) and has also vegetarian food classes.

Where are your students from ?

The majority is from here, I would guess there are only 1-2% foreigners attending my classes. Here, for example, there is a Corean that obtained his certificate in my school.

How much does it cost to attend your classes ?

12 dollars is the administration fee and 160 pesos (14 dollars) per week. In every week there are 2 classes that last for three hours each. The price doesn’t include the materials, but the material costs about 35-40 pesos per class.

Do you work all day ?

Yes from early morning until the evening.

Why is everybody in white clothes on all the photos ?

(we are pointing towards some photos on the wall that show Andres and his students in white cooking dress)

At the end of every course, we do an exposition. There we „show off“ everything we have learnt. We make a small celebration and I give a small speech where we review our cooking knowledge.

Are there more women or man attending your classes ?

We have slightly more women than men – there are some men, but they are still only a small percentage of the total. From 44 in total, there are only eight men.

Would you be giving Yucatecan cooking classes ?

Sure. I would give classes of Yucatecan food if I knew that there was some interest. At the moment I don’t have any students that would like to attend such a class. The people here from Merida will not come to my school if I do a class of Yucatecan cooking. They are more interested in other things – for example cakes or vegetarian cooking.

You offer vegetarian classes. Do you think that one can find a lot of vegetarian food in Merida ?

No, I don’t think so. I offer these classes because they lead to a government certificate of vegetarian cooking.

Where do you buy your ingredients from ?

I don’t go to markets. It’s not hygienic at all and Walmart has much better service. In the market the products don’t have even quality certifiates. I only buy from Walmart. I can complain in Walmart if there is any problem. In the market you are never sure – in my opinion people there do not handle the food in the appropriate way. There are lots of Mosquitos around the meat , people don’t wash their hands. (...) I don’t trust the Mexican product and think Walmart is better.

What do you think of the presence of big supermarket chains such as Walmart and Commercial Mexicana ?

They are good. In my opinion, you have to chose and see (and assess the quality of) the product. The national chains are there as well, as you mentionned, San Francisco d’Asis and Commercial. We have more choide now than before. We now consume things that wouldn’t have been available before. For example we have discovered to eat cauliflower, Spinach, Brocoli and Nopal. These vegetables would not grow here before.

Do you find everything you need in Walmart ?

Absolutely – up to 95% everything.

And fish ?

Oh – I don’t like fish.

And lard ?

Yes, I buy lard in Walmart. Here, I can show you (opens the fridge). It’s hundert percent clean and pure. I buy it in Walmart to avoid the sight of the butchers grease pan where you can see cockroaches swim......

The Yucatecan food is made with a lot of lard, isn’t it ? Lard is pork fat isn’t it ?

Sure. We use it for some things for example for sweet bread, filled pastry or ham and cheese pastries.

Sweet bread with lard ?

We use half lard half margarine. The lard makes the cooked dough softer than if you would only use margarine.

Freely translated from Spanish

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