WildTale Vancouver World Chef Exchange Dinner
When: Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (dinner)
Where: 1079 Hamilton St., Vancouver
Tickets and info: $130 per person, plus applicable taxes, gratuity and service charges; dineoutvancouver.com
When people think of Mexican food, they often think of cilantro-studded street tacos, fresh salsa and salt-rimmed margaritas.
But this simplified perception belies the true diversity of dishes on offer across the broad spectrum of Mexican cuisine, according to celebrated chef Guillermo González Beristáin.
“Mexican food is often misunderstood or poorly exported,” he says.
Through an upcoming dinner at WildTale in Vancouver, which will see the chef step into the kitchen of the Yaletown restaurant alongside the eatery’s executive chef Francisco Higareda during the upcoming Dine Out Vancouver Festival, González Beristáin is determined to shine a spotlight on the many unique flavours on offer in his home country’s cuisine.
“I hope guests can experience and learn more from Mexico through my dishes,” González Beristáin says.
And, according to Higareda, González Beristáin is the ideal person to do just that.
“Guillermo has one of the most impressive resumés in Mexico,” Higareda says. “He has shared his flavours around the world, and I respect his dedication to the craft of cooking.”
For Higareda, the opportunity to present the flavours of his own home country, while also cooking alongside González Beristáin, was simply too good to pass up.
“When the opportunity came up for us to participate, I reached out to chef Guillermo to see if he would be interested in partnering on this dinner,” Higareda explains of how the chef pairing was made. “Bringing a chef who I have worked with from my home country, and one of Latin America’s top chefs, was a natural selection.
“His resumé is one that is to be admired, and I knew Vancouver would love to experience his cooking.”
Originally from Monterrey, the capital city of the northeastern state of Nuevo León, González Beristáin boasts an impressive roster of award-winning restaurants in his portfolio — 10, to be exact — including his flagship eatery, Pangea. The popular restaurant, which has been dubbed among Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, highlights the blend of flavours that González Beristáin has become known for. Which is to say a perfectly unique mashup of Mexican and French cuisines.
“Because Mexico was governed by France in the 1800s, some of our most traditional dishes have a French influence,” González Beristáin says of the inspiration. “Both cuisines, being well executed, are highly elegant and interlace with one another perfectly.”
Of course, a few other culinary influences come into the mix, as well.
“My culinary style is highly influenced by different factors — Ensenada, my hometown rooted to the sea, the opportunity I had to study and to work abroad for several years, and living in Monterrey, motherland of cabrito and carne asada,” González Beristáin says. “I can say it is a Mexican contemporary cuisine, without losing its identity.”
The opportunity to create a menu alongside González Beristáin provided Mexico City-trained Higareda (who later went on to hone his skills at the Michelin-starred establishment Restaurant Arzak in Spain and L’Atelier in Paris) to forge a deeper connection with his own homegrown dishes.
“Collaborating with one of Latin America’s top chefs gives me the opportunity to tap into my own culinary roots and create a truly unforgettable dining experience for guests,” says Higareda, who admits he regularly works to incorporate Mexican influences into the WildTale lineup. “Many of the dishes I have added to WildTale’s recent menu launch have Mexican influence — tacos, tostadas, ceviche, the way some of the fresh fish is prepared and cooked.”
For González Beristáin, the opportunity to cook in a different country, is one he says is “always exciting.”
“The exchange of knowledge goes both ways,” he says. “I have never been to Vancouver, and have no doubt that cooking with chef Francisco Higadera will give me the opportunity to experience the local cuisine and to exchange our work and passions.”
The upcoming World Chef Exchange dinner will present a perfect blending of “coastal cuisine will meet south-of-the-border culinary traditions” offered throughout a multi-course menu in an effort to introduce diners to a whole new world of tastes using regionally sourced ingredients. Each dish will be paired alongside a selection of premium tequila and mezcal, as well as locally and internationally sourced wines.
“It will be a dinner that celebrates the traditional flavours of Mexican cuisine, in a collaboration by two Mexicans chefs using local West Coast ingredients and influences,” Higareda summarizes. “It doesn’t get any more unique than that.”
The World Chef Exchange dinner at WildTale will be one of many unique dining experiences on offer during the 17-day festival that runs from Jan. 17 to Feb. 2 at eateries throughout the city.
“Dine Out Vancouver has been doing the Vancouver World Chef Exchange dinners for some time now,” Higareda says. “Tourism Vancouver has done a great job of exposing the city to international chefs and flavours.”
Other World Chef Exchange dinners happening during this year’s festival will include chef Shelome Bouvette alongside Toronto chef Charlotte Langley at Chich Restaurant on Jan. 21; chef Ian McHale and Ireland’s chef Ahmet Dede of Mews Restaurant at wildebeest on Jan. 27; and Salmon N’ Bannock Bistro’s all-Indigenous team will welcome Maori chef Rewi Spraggon from New Zealand and chef Shane Chartrand from Edmonton for an “‘Off the Hook’ Indigenous Dinner on Feb. 2.