Chef Ivan talks Mexican food, what it’s like settling in Asia and taking the big step to launch Flavors of Mexico Asia during the pandemic.
Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Chef Ivan Chavarria is on a mission to share his Mexican heritage through interactive, digital cooking classes here in the Asia region.
Here Set the Tables speaks to Chef Ivan about launching Flavors of Mexico Asia during the pandemic together with his business partner and girlfriend Nadzirah, myths about Mexican cooking and what it’s like settling in Asia.
How did you get started in hospitality?
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I began my training in Michelin starred restaurant La Sucursal in Spain and hotels such as Ocean Maya Royale, Playa del Carmen before moving to Bali.
My journey to Asia began when I was invited to work as Chef at Motel Mexicola back in 2013.
In 2015, I ventured out on my own to become a consultant chef for multiple restaurants and bars such as Sky Garden, Los Jefes, and Blue Corner Bar in Nusa Lembongan.
Aside from having a business partner who is Malaysian, I have been featured as a guest chef in Kuala Lumpur’s Flavours of Mexico in 2016 by the Mexican Embassy to showcase authentic recipes from Mexico to the diplomatic community and Malaysian Public.
From these experiences, I have grown to understand what the local and international market enjoys in this region – especially when it comes to my cuisine.
What is Flavors of Mexico Asia all about?
Flavors of Mexico Asia started as my passion to share my culture with people in the region.
Whilst being in this pandemic I was asked a few times by different parties to teach them about my cuisine.
It made me realise that I enjoyed teaching and wanted more people to learn about Mexican food.
This is how my girlfriend Nadzirah came in – she owns a digital marketing agency and supported me with setting up the communications plan.
What are your virtual cooking classes like?
We have been partnering up with the guys at Wayang Kitchen – an interactive gastronomic entertainment company based out of Kuala Lumpur.
Together with them, we launched our digital event (the most recent one about Dia de Los Muertos) which taught people how to prepare Chicken Adobo Tacos, Pico de Gallo, and Guacamole.
It was overall an incredible cross border collaboration which we intend on expanding more in the future.
The cooking class is hosted via Zoom and we have a maximum of 10 attendees per class.
The recipes that people are learning so far are mainly tacos as I want them to learn the other side to Mexican tortillas – through cornflour!
Attendees get to learn how to make this dough from scratch and we have taught them the history and even the health benefits around it.
Typically, our classes will last about two hours and they can purchase a meal kit or they can buy their own ingredients.
Our next class with Wayang Kitchen will be on Nov 27 and Nov 28, which we’ve named Food Tripping Mexico.
In this series we’ll be talking about Maize (corn) as that weekend happens to be Maize Day as well!
What are the top three myths about Mexican food you would like to dispel?
Mexican food is unhealthy (definitely is healthy!)
Mexican food is spicy (not entirely true)
Mexican food is only enchiladas, tacos and quesadillas (there’s more than just this and we are proud of it!)
What are your thoughts on the word ‘authenticity’ in the context of food?
‘Authentic’ food is subjective but the beauty of food is that it can adapt to the places and regions and find its own authenticity.
Authenticity is not easily recognised when the media is out there deciding what we consume.
For example, an unknown chef could be doing some original things with his food but if the media never discovers him, he will not get to share his authenticity.
What’s next for you?
I am focusing on developing an e-cookbook that incorporates ingredients available in this region that can mimic authentic Mexican Flavors.
Of course, some of this might be Tex Mex (which comes from the North) but a majority I hope will be more steered towards other parts of Mexico.
Some dishes I have successfully made such as Chicken Pipian will be introduced into the book.
We are working to pitch to more corporate clients as we believe our entertainment-and-cooking class is an unforgettable experience.
Aside from this, I am also doing pop-ups at a beach restaurant every Sunday and private events on request.
This article first appeared on Set the Tables.
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