"Eat at the local restaurants, stay in the hotels and visit the small towns.”
A week before his hometown was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, acclaimed chef Xavier Pérez Stone was doing what he does best—cooking a multi-course Mexican feast at a stunning beachside resort. While at the Barceló Gourmet Festival at the Barceló Maya Grand Resort, not far from his home in Playa del Carmen, Stone cooked dishes that brought him back to his childhood in the Coyoacán neighborhood of Mexico City, an area with colonial-era walls and buildings that would crack and fall days later.
“When I first heard about it I thought, ‘Wow, we just had two major earthquakes; we need to help,'” says Stone. “The distance makes it difficult, but there are things we can do.” In the immediate aftermath, Stone spread the word on his restaurant’s social media pages of where people could donate clothes, food, water and transportation to the regions hit hardest.
It has been just over a month since the earthquakes hit Mexico, but the areas affected are still in desperate need of aid. “If you’d like to help please come to Mexico! Eat at the local restaurants, stay in the hotels and visit the small towns,” says Stone.
As part of relief efforts, Stone helped organize two fundraisers. The first was at Axiote, his restaurant in Playa del Carmen, where he welcomed the entire community, asking eight different area chefs to come together and make a dish for everyone who made a donation that night.
Aside from money, locals brought enough necessities like clothes, toilet paper, medicine and food to fill a truck.
“The second event we held took place at Kitxen, the bar of one of Mexico’s most famous rock stars, Saúl Hernández, from the band Caifanes,” says Stone. “Everyone who went donated money to the relief effort in exchange for the concert and food.”
It’s been ten years since Stone moved from his home in Mexico City to the vacation destination of Playa Del Carmen. As a new chef to the region, his staggering 20-course meals at Cocina de Autor in the Grand Velas Riviera Maya elevated the country’s idea of what resort food could be. While there he earned it the honor of being the only AAA Five Diamond all-inclusive resort in the world. Since then, he’s gone on to win Iron Chef Canada and open Axiote on the Riviera Maya. “Winning the title of Iron Chef was amazing because people from other countries come to my restaurant, recognize me and appreciate my food even more.”
The focus at this eatery strays from his usual double-digit courses to a more relaxed menu using only local ingredients and traditional Mexican recipes. The menu changes based on season and availability, but it’s not unusual to see a beef tongue taco or grasshopper guacamole make an appearance.
Stone’s cooking pays homage to his home city and his close-knit family. His passion for cooking regional Mexican dishes began while standing on a chair in his grandmother’s kitchen cooking the meat his father hunted. “I spent many, many hours in the kitchen when I was a child” says Stone.
But Mexico City street food also plays a role in his menu and his affinity for authentic Mexican dishes. “I ate so much street food when I was young, so I try to mix those flavors with the recipes my mother and grandmother taught me,” says Stone.
Despite some restaurants in ruins, Stone has high hopes that Mexico City’s culinary scene will continue to grow. “I feel that Mexican cuisine is changing in a good way," he says. "Chefs like myself are choosing to cook with better local produce and more interesting flavors. Now, chefs are proud to use traditional recipes.”
You can donate to relief efforts here.