A big welcome to Chef Mario Castro as he inspires the team at Blanca Blue Restaurant, a delectable contemporary gourmet restaurant that overlooks Banderas Bay on the Garza Blanca Preserve where Hotel Mousai is located.  The young chef’s brand new menu has propelled the elegant fine dining scene at Blanca Blue to a whole new level, highlighting his skillful instincts paired with meticulous expertise.  

Mexican Avant-Garde Cuisine

mexican-avant-garde-cuisine

Hotel guests and local foodies can sample Chef Mario’s irresistible Mexican Avant-Garde Cuisine each night of the week at Blanca Blue on the south shore of Puerto Vallarta.  The charismatic yet humble chef took some time out of his busy schedule in the kitchen to talk about his unique background, his innovative new concept at Blanca Blue and his unexpected go-to ingredient.

Take one glance at the right arm of Chef Mario Castro and you’ll understand just how passionate this young chef is about the art of cuisine: he has the chemical formulas for the seven basic flavors — salt, pepper, capsaicin (the spicy taste of chilli), sweet, bitter, sour (citric acid) and umami (savory) —  tattooed upon it.  His devotion to the culinary arts began in his childhood, revealing, “My mother is from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and I spent the first 10 years of my life in Mexico before going to Florida in the United States with all my family. I was brought up with authentic Mexican food. My mother is a really traditional Mexican woman.  She would make tortillas each day with her hands.”  

His early culinary experiences inspired a career in which he has always pushed himself, starting with a 6 month internship at world-renowned El Bulli in Spain, where he was deeply influenced by Ferran Adrià: “He is the father of deconstructive and molecular cuisine. He was the inspiration behind the techniques first launched in the 90s that have given modern dining its distinctive textures, flavours and unique experiences.”  From there, he has worked at prestigious locales including the Waldorf Astoria in Florida and The Bazaar at SLS in South Beach, Miami where he gained infinite knowledge as he worked alongside 3 Star Michelin chef José Andrés.  

Innovative Techniques, Textures and Flavors

Those early influences have brought him full-circle to his present work at Blanca Blue, where he defies tradition with innovative techniques, textures and flavors while still keeping authentic Mexican cuisine at the heart of each dish, revealing, “The inspiration is Mexican Avant-Garde Cuisine; that is, we are using traditional ingredients and culinary customs from Mexico’s villages and towns, applying new techniques to create flavorsome dishes for modern taste buds.  For example, we will be using some molecular techniques like foams, airs etc, yet remaining faithful to Mexican flavors or using ancient culinary techniques with more modern ingredients.  I don’t want to make a fusion, I want it to be traditional Mexican flavors and ingredients but with avant-garde techniques.  My favorite ingredients are those native ingredients that have been used in Mexico for hundreds of years: corn, huitlacoche, pumpkin blossom and so on.”  

Magic Ingredient

When questioned about the ingredient Chef Mario simply can’t live without, the award would go to, “Brown sugar! It is an ingredient that brings flavor and harmony, while not being so extreme as normal sugar. It always sorts out my dishes. It is that sweet element that gives balance to all of my creations. For example, with pork, with paprika, cayenne or chilli, you need that balance with something sweet, whether sugar or honey, but brown sugar is more subtle.”

Stone Soup

His choice for a “can’t-miss” dish on the exciting new menu at Blanca Blue is one with a story, explaining how the Stone Soup reflects the roots of Mexican cuisine: “This is a fascinating dish that is based on a native ritualistic delicacy in Oaxaca in honor of the gods, where the most pure women of the village would prepare a large hole and fill it with river water and seasoning while the men go out to fish. During this time, they would heat rocks from the river in a fire so that when the men returned with the fish they would put the red hot stones in the water to cook the fish. Like a barbecue, just a barbecue with water. The stone soup on the new menu is my tribute to this ritual. We will be using a freshwater shrimp in red snapper broth.”  Aside from its delectable flavors, the intriguing history alone puts this soup at the top of our list as well!

Top Advice for Chefs with Passion

When asked to share some wisdom for those who are currently striving for a career in the culinary arts, Chef Mario claims that first and foremost it is essential to know who you are as a chef, insisting, “To be a good chef, you have to be totally committed. For me, the only thing that exists is myself and food. Nothing else matters.”  Having the correct tools at your fingertips makes a world of difference as well, disclosing, “The first thing I did once I began earning a decent wage was to invest in my tools. First, I invested in my knives —each knife costs between 500 and 2000 dollars— and my equipment.”  Finally, a key aspect of his commanding culinary techniques was the investment he made in culinary experiences, mentioning, “I began to go to all the best restaurants that I could.  My mother always asks me why I spend so much money on dining, and I tell her that these experiences are central to my development as a chef.”

Why not meet the chef for yourself on your next visit to Hotel Mousai in Puerto Vallarta? Taste his magic firsthand.