IXTAPA-ZIHUATANEJO, MEXICO - In what is quickly becoming a monthly occurrence, there was another food and wine festival this past weekend. But unlike events in Aspen, Pebble Beach and Las Vegas - which draw top-tier culinary talent and more winemakers than you could possibly sample in 48 hours - this one was held in Mexico, thousands of miles south of the glare of North American TV crews and "celebrity chefs." But the inaugural Food & Wine Festival in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo was remarkable for at least one thing: the organizers brought in Chicago's Mexican food major domo, Rick Bayless, and made him the headliner.
With posters plastered all over town featuring Bayless (noting his "Top Chef Masters" win rather than his connection to Frontera Grill and Topolobampo), the organizers established the event with some tried-and-true talent to attract U.S. tourists, but also filled in the rest of the schedule with Mexican chefs, tequila experts, and even fellow American chef Stephan Pyles, who plies his trade in Southwestern cooking in Dallas.
Unlike the "one ticket" events in Aspen, this was an a la carte event, offering cooking classes for $40 per person; nighttime "grazing" events ran slightly more than $100 per person.