Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a somewhat unusual property. It’s an all-inclusive resort which has received Five Diamond AAA status, but it’s not just the hotel that’s garnered accolades. Grand Velas has also been recognized for its restaurants, which are open to the public in addition to hotel guests. One of these, Cocina del Autor, was rated among the “23 Best Restaurants in Mexico” by Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2011.
It’s not unusual to hear about the control of the executive chef in the kitchen of a top tier restaurant, but you are going to find that at Cocina del Autor. This restaurant actually has two chefs at the helm, Mikel Alonso and Bruno Oteiza. The chemistry between these men is obvious when you greet them or taste their dishes. They have combined their talents to produce what they refer to as “Basque-Mexican cuisine, inspired by life in Riviera Maya.” Neither takes credit over the other as everything they do is a collaboration.
The irony of the pairing of Chef Mikel Alonso and Chef Bruno Oteiza is that they each arrived at the same area through a different path. Bruno Oteiza was born in the Basque region of Spain, an area that French born Mikel Alonso would end up growing up in and honing his cooking skills. The duo didn’t meet until Mexico, where they both polished their culinary skills before arriving at Grand Velas, becoming a perfect duo to create Cocina del Autor when it opened in 2008.
The dishes at Cocina del Autor manage to do something that few great chefs do anymore – keep things simple, with just a bit of flair. The adults-only eatery has the elegance of a fine French restaurant with the warmth of its Mexican location. The dishes you will find to be all recognizable with the extra touch given to bring out the flavor and passion of chefs Alonso and Oteiza: Wild Mexican Mushroom Soup; Veal Cooked for 36 Hours at 150 degrees, Claypot Coffee and Cinnamon Beef; and Grilled Lobster with Black Corn are a few examples of the understated gourmet feel.
Another appeal to the chefs of Cocina del Autor is their flexibility. They are open to special requests and will change the menu if necessary for allergies. The artistry of the final dish is the key as Chef Alonso describes as “no worries” and you will find the most creativity on the dessert menu, even if it doesn’t look that way. What’s described as simply “Tapioca Soup” is a delicious concoction of pineapple, bread and coconut milk. The menu always includes a chocolate creation, which might simply be called Chocolate Out of Place, and turn out to be a plate full of semi-sweet and fruity flavors. Whatever you order to finish your meal with you should ask if the Ginger Ice Cream is available, as it’s just heavenly!
By Marcia Frost