Story by Bill Nestor. Photography by Pedro Arias, Ulises L. Guerrero, and Favia Cruz Mercado
The second Golf Kitchen Punta Mita event held April 25-28 at the 1,600-acre upscale luxury Pacific coast destination is in the books as sensational, smashing, and delightful. Those were descriptives often voiced by many from the opening swing of a four-hole shootout elimination contest between eleven chefs from some of the most prestigious golf clubs and resorts in the world. Chefs Damian Gilchrist, Jared Ashton, Michael Ruggiero, José Carles Fabregás, Doug Blair, Joseph Klages, Marcelo Pereyra, Yasuo Asai, Gastón Yelicich, Ivan Villanueva and Anthony Villanueva teed it up on Pacifico in play for the Golf Kitchen Chef’s Cup. They presented a golfing exhibition on course during the first afternoon; then proceeded in Punta Mita kitchens with non–golfing chefs to surpass even the loftiest expectations throughout four days of a spectacular affair.
The eminent culinarians dazzled participants with their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. Their culinary delights were presented at St Regis resort and Four Seasons managed Punta Mita Golf Club restaurants, and also at Punta Mita’s Sufi, Pacifico and Kupuri beach club restaurants. Incredible, awe-inspiring, tasty, and delicious were words echoed round during the swing and savor activities. It was apparent Golf Kitchen Punta Mita once again delivered a winning combination showcasing talents in golf and gastronomy.
“The second edition was a hit from start to finish with a great crowd of locals and visitors creating many memorable moments and flavors on the golf courses and off,” shared Carl Emberson, Director of Marketing & Operations at Punta Mita.
There was some excellent play by golfers in the chef only competition. It came down to the final hole where Chef José Carles Fabregás bested Chef Marcelo Pereyra to claim the 2019 Golf Kitchen Chef’s Cup.
“I was particularly impressed with the acknowledgment of the grounds crew by John McIntyre, Director of Golf at Punta Mita GC, before the shotgun start of the two-day tournament. It is a gesture that I’m recommending at the Kiawah Island Golf Club,” said Chef Doug Blair.
Punta Mita offered a variety of venues for meals at hotel, golf club, and beach club restaurants, and also lodging options in private residences or rooms and suites at the understatedly elegant hotel resorts. The backdrop of sandy beaches along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean and Banderas Bay, and the access to pools, spas, health clubs, tennis club, and magnificently maintained fields of play at Pacifico and Bahia provided an ideal location for the 2019 GKPM celebration of chefs, food, spirits, and golf.
Chefs Pato Pérsico and Jorgé González served as hosts, welcomed resident and guest chefs, and coordinated the culinary teams who shared their knowledge and talents. Participating chefs included an outstanding selection of international culinary masters:
Pato Pérsico, Executive Chef, Punta Mita beach clubs, México
Jorge González, Executive Chef, Four Seasons Punta Mita, México
Anthony Giacoponello, Executive Chef, Sebonack GC, Southampton, NY
Joseph Klages, Executive Sous Chef, Sebonack GC, Southampton, NY
Michael Ruggiero, Executive Chef, GlenArbor GC, Bedford, NY
Tony Villanueva, Executive Chef, Edgewood CC, River Vale, NJ
Ricki Motta, Executive Chef, The Garzón Club, Uruguay
Doug Blair, Executive Chef, Cassique at Kiawah Island Club, SC
Damian Gilchrist, Executive Chef, Sankaty Head GC, Nantucket, MA
Lalo Palazuelos, Executive Chef, Zibu Restaurant, México
Yasuo Asai, Executive Chef, Asai Kaiseki Cuisine, México
Marcelo Pereyra, Executive Chef, Coronel Pringles Restaurant, Argentina
José Carles Fabregás, Executive Chef/Owner, Downtown Boquerón, Puerto Rico
Bertha Alicia Barajas, Executive Chef, Tail of the Whale/Four Seasons Punta Mita, México
Gastón Yelicich, Executive Chef/Owner, Cuatro Mares Restaurant, Punta del Este, Uruguay
Manuel Peruyer, Executive Chef, St Regis Punta Mita Resort, México
Director of Golf, John T. McIntyre gives well earned praise for grounds staff before the Golf Kitchen Cup begins.
“Meeting and working together with chefs from other prestigious golf clubs was a unique opportunity to network and share. My culinary team also benefited from the experience of making Golf Kitchen a win-win for all involved. It is one of the events that I like the most. The interactions between all are very intense. It allows us to continue learning and to see what’s cooking outside of Punta Mita. Four days are very productive for all,” exclaimed Chef Pato Pérsico.
Pacifico Beach Club provided an ideal setting for the opening night GKPM dinner reception. Dining began under a clear blue, sunny sky at tables facing the Pacific Ocean. The eventual sunset left a lingering glow while guests mingled, feasted on culinary creations, and imbibed on tropical delights. Mixologists’ cocktail blends and Garzon Club wines highlighted libations that poured freely while a plethora of food samplings at several chefs’ stations fulfilled tasting desires. Included were:
•A brilliant, fanciful “Millionaire Martini” concoction combined Kobe beef Yakatori atop king crab, lobster and shrimp Volcano Brûlée with 24kt gold leaf, and ocean pearls in an oversized martini glass by Chef Damian Gilchrist
•Sautéed prawns with fresh vegetables and carrot pesto; Grilled bruschetta with fresh ricotta, mushrooms conserva, and grilled vegetables by Chef Doug Blair
•Sliced grilled duck breast, pan-seared Foie gras, mango salsa tomatillo sauce; Fresh local oyster and Hamachi tartar, citrus segments, Yuzu Sauce by Chef Joseph Klages
•Tuna Crudo Italian style with cucumber, toasted crumbs and Sardinian gnocchi with lump crab, baby arugula, lime and parmesan by Chef Michael Ruggiero
•Assorted sculpted pastries by Chef Pato Pérsico
“Sharing the kitchen at Pacifico Beach Club while prepping for the opening reception was a treat on many levels; getting to know other chefs and their unique stories, where they began their culinary journey, how they arrived where they are today, and getting a glimpse of how their respective clubs operate. Most interesting was discovering the flavor profiles that make up their core. It was great to share our similarities and differences.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many people from Mexico and have developed an affinity for their food, culture, work ethic, and especially the pride they take in what they do and create. It was inspiring to share the kitchen with such a group of passionate culinary people,” said Chef Michael Ruggiero.
Bahia was the field of play for round one. The 38 two-player teams made up of Punta Mita residents, guests, visitors, and some chefs competed in a scramble format on day one of the two-day Golf Kitchen Cup tournament. Views of the Pacific Ocean and Banderas Bay escorted players along the undulating terrain and meandering routing. The flavorsome, refreshing garden luncheon at Punta Mita Golf Club hit the spot following the first day of play. It was created, prepared, and shared by guest chefs: Tony Villanueva, Ricki Motta, José Carles Fabregás, and Yasuo Asai; and chefs Jorge González and Bertha Alicia Barajas, and their Four Seasons’ culinary team.
“In the restaurant business, we always take something away and leave a part of us behind wherever we travel and cook. I hope that I left a lasting impression of my heart and kitchen craft that has served me well all these years. What I bring back to my kitchen is a spark of this tremendous energy and work ethic that I witnessed those few days in Punta Mita. I am forever changed and inspired by my new brothers in Mexico,” expressed Chef Tony Villanueva.
“It’s always fun and dynamic to share with chefs from other parts of the world. It is an enriching exchange. We all take something from each other: a recipe, a taste, a souvenir, and several new colleague friends. Days like this are most enjoyable... to share, laugh, and give; where everyone is oblivious to their routines, prepares to open up to new experiences, and transfers all this feeling of relaxation when cooking and eating while eager to discover and show rich flavors,” said Chef Ricki Motta.
Dinner that evening was enjoyed at one of the three Punta Mita restaurants where sensational, melt-in-your-mouth meals were prepared by guest chefs.
Braised Veal Osso Bucco with Creamy Polenta, Jumbo Asparagus, Reduction Sauce by Antnony Giacoponello, Executive Chef at Sebonack Golf Club.
Chef Gastón Yelicich fashioned cuisine that hit on all tastebud cylinders at Sufito, the outdoor open-air kitchen at Sufi Ocean Club. Featured appetizers were Red Tuna tartare with avocado and chives, and Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with cocktail sauce, and heart of palm salad. The entrée included Organic Chicken Confit, Rôsti potatoes, and a mushroom mix. Dessert was an almond tart of charred plums with bay leaves, pistachio ice cream, and cream caramel alfajorcitos.
At Pacifico Beach Club’s Grill, Chef Lalo Palazuelos’ exceptional culinary skills were evident in the dinner he prepared. First up was a White Fish Ceviche Stuffed Chili with garlic oil, guacachile, toasted peanut sauce, and sweet potato chips. Roasted Cauliflower with parmesan cheese and lemon sauce coupled with beet, coconut milk, and fried basil followed. Next up was Fish Fusion, a fillet of fish wrapped in banana leaf with tree chili sauce, tomato, coriander, and mushrooms. Selva Mex Thai–Coconut ice cream, strawberries, and a crunchy surprise dipped in dulce de leche concluded the meal.
Chef Anthony Giacoponello delivered a masterfully created three-course menu at St Regis Resort’s Carolina restaurant. Served were Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with mango chutney; Braised Veal Osso Bucco, creamy polenta, jumbo asparagus, with a reduction sauce; and Mille Feuille Napoleon, fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year. Golf Kitchen gives you great bonding experience with other international culinary professionals. The setting at Punta Mita is breathtaking. Each day provides activities and opportunities to try foods from around the world and meet new people. I truly enjoyed playing in the golf tournament; we had a good battle,” voiced Chef Lalo Palazuelos.
The second day of the GKPM Cup was a best-ball format contested on Pacifico; a course known for hole 3B Tail of the Whale, the world’s only natural ocean island green. The winning team was Ricardo Trueba and son, eleven-year-old sensation Ricardo Trueba Jr. who played off the men’s tees and astounded all.
Following round two, tournament prize awards were presented during a particularly tasty luncheon adjacent to the 18th green. Guest chefs Michael Ruggiero, Damian Gilchrist, Anthony Giacoponello, Doug Blair and Marcelo Pereyra; along with resident chefs Jorge González and Bertha Alicia Barajas, and their Four Seasons culinary team offered a variety of flavorful choices.
“It’s always a little daunting to put your food up with such world-class chefs, but once we’re all together, it’s nothing short of pure fun. I’m taken aback by the quality of individuals that participate in this event. They hail from all over the world, and everyone seems to have a similar kindness and generosity in their demeanor. We leave having solidified old friendships, as well as forged new ones,” commented Chef Doug Blair.
The closing dinner gala under the spacious open-air Kupuri Beach Club palapa restaurant took us on a culinary tour of the regions and styles of chefs Anthony Giacoponello, Tony Villanueva, Yasuo Asai, and Pato Pérsico. They delivered an extraordinary off-the-charts, scrumptious, 4-course bill-of-fare.
* Chef Yasuo Asai: Shrimp, Octopus, Asparagus, Cauliflower, and Blueberries with Vinegar Jelly
* Chef José Carles Fabregás: Local Totoaba in Lentil Stew, Green Plantain Bollitas and Crispy Skin Chicharron
* Chef Anthony Giacoponello: Braised Boneless Short Ribs, Truffle Root Vegetable Puree, Tomato Confit, and Sauce
* Chef Tony Villanueva: White Chocolate Cheesecake, Strawberry Lime Agave Compote.
* Wine pairings: Monte Xanic Vina Kristel Sauvignon Blanc, Guadalupe Valley, Mexico; Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon and Don Leo Stellar Digestivo Cabernet Sauvignon, Parras Valley, Mexico
“Golf Kitchen Punta Mita is a unique event in its own right. Sharing the culture and stories of chefs from all over the world was incredible. This event brought together great international chefs at an amazing property. I cannot wait to see what the next Golf Kitchen event will be in 2020,” said Chef José Carles Fabregás.
A delectable farewell brunch at Kupuri beach club’s al fresco restaurant on the final day made for a reflective gathering. The chefs shared thoughts and sentiments about being at GKPM and their participation in the extraordinary event. Sunday’s wrap-up repast punctuated the essence of Golf Kitchen Punta Mita’s 2019 edition.
Chef Pato Pérsico and his staff put out an extravagant buffet that would have sufficed. However, four guest chefs took it to another level with servings of delicious samplings that included:
* Pork Bondiola and Shrimp by Chef Marcelo Pereyra
* Octopus ceviche, Acapulco Ceviche, Octopus Cocktail with Sauces by Chef Lalo Palazuelos
* Spinach Pascualina and Tomato Salad and Entrecote Milanese Sandwiches by Chef Gastón Yelicich
*Burned Tomato, Rôsti Potato Avocado and Egg, and “Banderita grill” with Chimichurri by Chef Ricki Motta.
The combination of scrumptious brunch creations boinked a closing exclamation mark on a parade of remarkable cuisine. It was a fitting finish to four fantastic days of golf, food, wine, hospitality, and camaraderie at a lovely tropical paradise by the sea in Mexico.
“This edition of GKPM was for me the first time as a co-host chef. It was great to communicate with Chef Pato Pérsico to plan and bring all the chefs recipes and ideas together, and then finally to meet them in person. What a wonderful group of chefs: their personalities, cuisine, techniques, and passion for cooking created an amazing experience. The aromas and flavors during the cooking sessions were incredible. I was so delighted and most enjoyed seeing my team so excited about learning and meeting new chefs in their Punta Mita kitchens. It was very motivational for the soul of the team. Tasting all the food coming out from the stations, followed by smiles and a great vibe made doing Golf Kitchen Punta Mita 2019 a real joy,” expressed Chef Jorgé Gonzalez.
The Golf Kitchen concept of bringing together a lineup of accomplished chefs from prestigious golf clubs and resorts worldwide to share and showcase unexcelled flavorful cuisine is unique and should be recognized. Nowhere else is there an opportunity for a diverse collective of chefs to work side-by-side in the development of such a spectacular event.
“From its inception, the intent and essence of the Golf Kitchen brand have been to bring exclusive private golf club and resort chefs together in their very own club for and about them, which is Golf Kitchen.
It is a surreal moment in time to witness my vision come to life over and over again as we continue to build our team of clubs and chefs with each event. The bonds and friendships I have witnessed developing since the first event at Winged Foot Golf Club some years ago are unquestionably rewarding. It gives me and others the spirit and courage to continue to believe in and carry on, “ shared Diana Delucia, founder, publisher, and maestro of Golf Kitchen.
The camaraderie of these dynamic culinarians is magical, as is their most delicious creations that are appreciated and savored. Perhaps magical is what best describes the experience for the chefs and participants in Golf Kitchen events.
In many ways, the experiences of the international guest chefs at Golf Kitchen Punta Mita appear quite similar to what each two-player team feels when golfing in the tournament at GKPM or at clubs anywhere. It’s the camaraderie that draws us to golf time and again while facilitating the enjoyment and freedom to be together in friendship, a basic human need as social beings.
If golfing and gastronomy are your interest or passion, it doesn’t get much better than to experience a Golf Kitchen event at a lovely, tropical, oceanside setting. It’s delighfully unforgettable.
by Bill Nestor
Golf Kitchen Punta Mita 2019 sponsors: Riviera Nayarit Visitors & Convention Bureau, St Regis Punta Mita Resort, Grey Goose, Tequila Patron and Copa Airlines. A silent and live auction by Grandstand Sports raised funds for Peace & Fundacion Punta de Mita https://peacepuntademita.org/
For more information:
Golf Kitchen books, magazine, and events: www.golfkitchen.com
Punta Mita Resort and Punta Mita Golf Club: www.puntamita.com