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Mesamerica, Day Two: Truffles, Boycotts and Hail Storms

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Cookbook author Diana Kennedy with restaurateur Gabriela Cámara.
Cookbook author Diana Kennedy with restaurateur Gabriela Cámara.

[Photos: Paula Forbes]

Mesamerica, Mexican chef Enrique Olvera's three-and-a-half day long celebration of Mexican cuisine, continued into its second day despite thunderstorms and incredibly loud hail. Day two covered Monterrey truffle hunting, a call to arms from cookbook author and Mexican food researcher Diana Kennedy, California chef Christopher Kostow on creativity, New York pastry chef Brooks Headley on drums, and more (see also Eater's coverage of day one). Below, Mesamerica continues.

Chef Guillermo González Beristain of Pangea in Monterrey discussed the cuisine of Nuevo Leon, declaring "Monterrey's strength is its people" but adding that local ingredients like figs, pomegranates and limes don't hurt either. He also showed a video about truffle hunting in Nuevo Leon and made a dish by putting burnt mesquite straight into a kryovac bag with some meat before sealing it up.

Cookbook author and Mexican food researcher Diana Kennedy called for a boycott of imported ingredients, saying she's worried that things like chiles imported from abroad aren't the real deal. Calling it "a very big preoccupation," she called on chefs to be leaders and gave them nine months to make a difference. Kennedy wants a Mexican/gastronomic version of Michael Moore to step forward and "sit down with the big corporations and make those people who are messing with our food have a taste test." She noted that there are Mexican farmers working to preserve old strains of corn and the like for future generations, and that it's up to chefs to support them.

Christopher Kostow of Restaurant at Meadowood in the Napa Valley discussed the creative process, saying "it's an obligation to reflect the environment around you" but also that "any chef's voice has to come from his own personal experience." He warned that falling down a nostalgia hole can have consequences, though: "How do you harness your memories without having a menu that's not derivative? A menu that's not full of question marks?"

And then Del Posto's Brooks Headley took the stage accompanied by the band No Age. (Don't call him a pastry chef, "I like to say I make cookies for a living.") Brooks told a story to illustrate hospitality that involved unexpectedly eating a vegetarian tasting menu at an Alabama barbecue restaurant while No Age quietly accompanied him. Halfway through, it became clear that the band wasn't the only thing accompanying the story: a massive hail storm nearly drowned out everything in the auditorium. Can't stop the rock: after the story Headley took over drumming duties for a full song.

Arturo Fernández and Xano Saguer of Raíz and Espai Sucre in Mexico City discussed teaching the next generation of Mexican chefs (many of whom were very enthusiastically in attendance). They made several dishes while Saguer discussed the "culto al sabor" — the cult of taste.

There's still a day and a half left of Mesamerica, so stay tuned for more updates from Mexico City.

· All Mesamerica Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Hangover Observations on Eater [-E-]