Finalists Gabriel Rodriguez and Ixchel Ornelas split their time between some of Vidanta Riviera Maya’s most celebrated restaurants, including Caribbean hotspot Havana Moon, and AAA Four-Diamond award-winning French restaurant. In the custom-built Cirque du Soleil Theater, we got to peer over their shoulders as they enjoyed a performance of JOYÀ, Cirque’s first resident show outside of the US and their only production anywhere with a culinary element. From exotic foam-topped cocktails, to platters shrouded in kettle-dispensed vapor, to a charming “book” filled with meticulously composed desserts, one can see how intensively JOYÀ considers every sensory aspect of the dining journey, so that Cirque’s trademark spectacle may translate from stage to table.
For their final challenge, Chef Gabriel and Chef Ixchel were presented with an ingredient auction: bidding against one another on locally sourced, largely organic ingredients from which to build a series of magical final dishes. Components ranged from crimson picaña (tri-tip steak), to chunks of dark and white chocolate, to a whopping 77 lb whole atún (tuna), and both finalists had the benefit of some all-star mentoring, as Danish culinary giant René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Michelin starred Noma, consulted each magical menu in both conception and execution.
Vidanta’s Chef Alexis Bostelmann had this to say about the final two contestants: that they truly represent the range of what Mexican cuisine has to offer. From the influential energy of Mexico City to the vibrant seaside culture of Oaxaca, these chefs bring a fresh, modern approach to classic products. In the end, it was Chef Gabriel’s ambitious artistic sensibility that won him the edge over Chef Ixchel, despite the judges’ sense that she’d poured her heart into every dish. And judging from the chefs’ embrace under the spray of silver confetti cannons, the feeling of relief and accomplishment was shared.
Top Chef México was originally created not only to bring the excitement and success of this beloved series to Mexico, but to celebrate and raise awareness of the incredible diversity of traditions and techniques indigenous to Mexican cooking. It would take endless footage to convey the exquisite beauty and rich gastronomic history of all of Mexico—but if nothing else, Top Chef gives viewers a tantalizing taste. To experience the inspirational magic of Vidanta Riviera Maya’s JOYÀ, contact your concierge on your next visit to paradise.