yelapa style chef

Hotel Lagunita Chef

Afew months back I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabethe and had a wonderful conversation about food and table etiquette. Months passed and like most, she left for the States. A month ago, the new Chef was announced at the Hotel Lagunita and guess who it is… I’m super excited to have this world class Chef here in our paradise. Here’s a sample to share, from her blog.

About two months ago, a good friend said I needed a new challenge

It is your typical Saturday night at any restaurant
dead slow until 7:30 pm and then bang all at once. Only this is Hotel Lagunita in Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico.

The Hotel in a fishing village with about 1500 residence, 40 minutes south down the coast from Puerto Vallarta. There is a road but it is only passable by high clearance, 4-wheel drive truck 6 months of the year. Everything is brought in by boat and then transported throughout the village by pack mules. Yelapa has no roads, electricity came 5 years ago and we still use dial-up for Internet connection. Needless to say it is paradise. Beautiful sunny, bird singing mornings, lazy afternoons by a calm cove with clear warm, turquoise waters and balmy tropical evenings.

I come from 4 star hotel kitchens and private residences with every convenience. I apprenticed in a very small, almost ship galley type kitchen where everything was a arms reach, you had everything you needed and nothing you did not. No conveniences but very efficient. But Hotel Lagunita is in a realm all it’s own.

Lagunita is around 30 years old give or take a few years. It is set on the beach with 32 comfortable palapa bungalows right on the waters edge. The kitchen must have equipment around 50 years old. The refrigerators are old Pepsi and Coke machines. We have two chest freezers that are so deep you can’t see the bottom. What is down there? The pantry or bodega, as we call it is an old walk in that died years ago. The range is a beautiful old 12 burner with only 5 fully functioning burners and 6 that at best will bring water to tepid in about 45 minutes and 1 that is completely useless. The oven
rusted out you can actually see the floor through the bottom! No cover panel over the gas flames, one very rusted rack with one position because the runners are all rusted off. Oh did I mention there is no thermostat so it is a bit like Hansel and Gretel, just stick your head in my dear and tell me the temperature! I won’t go into detail but the plancha or griddle and fryer can only be set so high or the gas catches the old grease on fire, shoots up a flame that would set off the Ansul system, if there were such a thing here. Oh, did I mention this all runs on tanks of gas.

I digress, back to the evening at hand. We have two wonderful cooks working the line, but no light. The overhead for some reason will not illuminate on one side, the side that lights the hot line. We have started a new menu, which the customers are ordering from so I, the new chef, must train the cooks as the orders come in. I did I mention I have just learned Spanish so my ability to give good directions is limited. Everything is going Ok until an order for Seafood Soup comes in. I must dig through the chest freezer to find the bag of langosta and scallops we need. Everything is kept in the freezers due to the fact that the electricity goes out at least once a week on average, sometimes for up to 2 days. And remember we only have two soda fridges for a 60-seat restaurant and 10-seat bar, so into the freezer all perishables must go.

As I return to the line with the seafood, after leaving all the meats on the floor, in plastic bags. The hot line table, which is an antique steam table that has not steamed a thing for years, breaks! I hear a crack and see the plated food sliding
the rusted bracket on one end has snapped and the broomstick that holds up the other end falls away. Luckily the cook is quick and saves the plates.

However another issue arises
the customer is not ready so the food must wait. Where? On the waiters tray in front of the floor fan to keep the flies off! And then someone orders ice cream
I return to shuffle all the items on the floor back into the freezer so I can get to the ice cream in the bottom of other freezer. Somehow I did not pack it right and need to use a crate of tomatoes to hold the top down.

After some laughs and a beer I have decided I am up to this challenge. I will take these mishaps over picking the red lettuce out of the baby mix anyday!

Stop by the Hotel to taste Elizabethe’s cooking and desserts.. Tell her Brad sent you….ps ..they take credit cards.

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