By Mary Luz Mejia
This year marked the 15th anniversary of one of Toronto’s most beloved food-obsessed festivals known as “The Hot & Spicy Festival.” Held every summer on the shore of Lake Ontario at the city’s picturesque Harbourfront Centre, the festivities culminate with an international Iron Chef Competition. This summer, chef Ross Warhol competed from the United States (he works at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chataqua, NY), Mavis Brade represented Antigua and Barbuda (chef at Sugar Ridge) and from Mexico, Jonatan Gomez Luna Torres (Executive Chef at Le Chique in the Mayan Riviera) also cooked for the crowd.
I haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy dishes prepared by the former two chefs, but the latter, Jonatan Torres, well, his food I know. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to find myself at the Karisma Resorts in the Mayan Riviera. I know, hard gig, right? While my days were jam-packed, it’s hard not to enjoy working when you’re surrounded by talcum white beaches that stretch for kilometers and hug turquoise, Caribbean water. It’s not too shabby either when the resort’s beach butlers come round with all-fruit “paletas” (ice pops) or fruit kebobs and cold, moistened towels. But I digress.
At the Azul Sensatori resort, Chef Jonatan helms the kitchens of a very special restaurant called “Le Chique.” Special because there’s nothing else like it in the Mayan Riviera- some would argue, Mexico. Jonatan’s thoroughly modern take on Mexican classics, which combines a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy and whimsy, is nothing short of spectacular. I’ll always remember the “tree” of candy floss wrapped around branches that I was told to pluck off and eat. Inside each cotton-bud looking parcel, was a little orb of hot foie gras. Magic in a morsel. It was sublime. He learned from Ferran Adria after all, so it’s not surprising to find traces of El Bulli at Le Chique.
At the Hot & Spicy Iron Chef competition, the black box ingredient was garlic, and Chef Jonatan, along with sous Julio Mara Mackey prepared a hen in black mole sauce with a creamy camote puree infused with a vanilla and cinnamon emulsion. Way to represent Mexico Jonatan- this year’s proud winner of Toronto’s Hot & Spicy International Iron Chef Competition. Should you ever find yourself on the playa wondering where to go haute in the heat – Le Chique’s got the culinary cadre you crave.