Mexican Women Chefs Rule at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

By Leslie Westbrook   |   May 7, 2024
Suckling pig terrine (courtesy photo)

My seatmate on Alaska Airlines from LAX to Puerto Vallarta was Jeremy, a South African who made his fortune developing software for Wall Street and had become a U.S. citizen. He was traveling with 16 of his best friends to celebrate his 60th birthday in Punta Mita, Mexico. 

I was heading for a special culinary event at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, near Puerto Vallarta, where a coterie of talented women chefs had been flown in from around Mexico to cook their hearts out.

“When I sold my company and retired,” Jeremy confessed, “I took my entire company there to celebrate.”

Adria Marina has cooked at République in Los Angeles and has restaurants in Tijuana (courtesy photo)

“Wow … and why?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to get a huge bar bill at the end!” he said and laughed.

In case you’re not familiar with the seven splendid hotels in Mexico owned and operated by Velas Resorts, this savvy luxury company’s five-star properties are all-inclusive, which means guests pay a single price to stay, eat, drink, and make merry. Featuring upscale amenities and an array of unique programs and special events, they’re designed for families, couples, groups of friends, and yes, solo travelers like me.

If anyone had suggested an all-inclusive vacation to me a few years ago, I might have turned up my nose. But these are truly “all-exclusive” resorts, too, and (as I discovered) it’s incredibly liberating being able to dine at any one of several top-notch restaurants, order a margarita at the beachside bar, open a bottle of tequila in your own comfortable suite – and not worry about the bill. 

Jeremy was right.

Each Velas Resort property boasts its own distinct style and amenities. I once spent a memorable birthday at the Grand Velas Los Cabos, another of the company’s beachside resorts, which boasts an outstanding contemporary art collection.

I had jumped at this chance to attend a “Women & Traditional Cuisine” weekend at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, also on the Pacific Coast, which promised regional food prepared by four top Mexicanachefs. It turned out to be delicious, inspiring, and educational, allowing me to explore Mexico’s vast foodscape without leaving the resort’s glorious setting on Banderas Bay. (I did manage to squeeze in a quick shopping jaunt to Puerto Vallarta, only 15 minutes away by Uber, as well as a massage at the hotel’s wonderful spa and some beach walks to work off calories.)

The first night’s dinner began with a sublime appetizer: a seashell holding abalone in a bath of seawater and fermented coconut, tender coconut relish, cucumber, and serrano pepper, prepared by television personality/chef Xrysw (pronounced Chris) Ruelas Díaz, the young, award-winning chef of Xokol (located in Guadalajara). Adria Marina, who has cooked at République in Los Angeles and has restaurants in Tijuana, wowed our table with fresh noodles accompanied by octopus and oxtail and flavored with scallions and coriander. This seemed to be everyone’s favorite dish, and deservedly so. Enmolada con torta de quelite (quesadilla with mole) flavored with wild edible herbs came from the talented hands of gorgeous Zahie Téllez, well known in Mexico for her television cooking show. Maffer Klyota, also from Guadalajara, prepared the robust and tasty main course of suckling pig in tatemado colimote, a typical preparation from Colima, the crisp skin a result of grilling on fire or coals.

Ground ice cream, cocoa butter escamoles, medicinal herb sponge cake, Soconusco cocoa ganache, and Veracruz vanilla (courtesy photo)

For dessert we enjoyed another extraordinary creation from Ruelas Díaz – tierra ice cream that contained a trace amount of earth from Veracruz, served with escamoles (the edible larvae and pupae of ants eaten since Aztec times), a medicinal-plant sponge cake, cacao ganache, and vanilla. It was a memorable finale to a truly incredible meal.

During the day on Saturday, a large expanse of the resort’s tropical main lawn was transformed by tables, chairs, bars, and live music into the perfect setting for a leisurely brunch and joyous afternoon of Mexican hospitality. The four women chefs, there to interact with and answer questions from guests, prepared another array of wonderful dishes, while the hotel’s chefs pitched in with an eye-catching spread of delicious food and alluring specialty cocktails. There was an abundance of choices, including seafood stations with whole fresh fish being fileted, amazing street tacos, and ever-tempting dessert stands.

I was wowed and won over by these hardworking, talented women (not to mention very, very full). While impressed by all of them, it was especially thrilling to discover Adria Marina, whom I plan to visit at her two restaurants, Misión 19 and Georgina, just south of the border in Tijuana and easily reached by car or train.

Some Velas resorts cater to families; others to grownups. The latest “Adults Only” in the hotel portfolio to open is Grand Velas Boutique that premiered this past January in Cabo San Lucas. Other adults-only properties include Mar del Cabo (European Plan) and Casa Velas (all inclusive). Visit

¡Que vivan las cocineras mexicanas y las cocinas de México!

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit



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