A symphony of wildlife and glow of twilight on the lagoon combined to accentuate a quintessential tropical evening at Banyan Tree’s upscale Tamarind restaurant. The table’s location beside open, oversized French doors was essentially alfresco dining where delicious creations from the kitchen of Chef Sarahi Ponce were served. The food, exceptional hospitality and captivating ambiance set a standard for the array of dining experiences that followed during the inaugural Masters of Food, Wine & Golf event at Mayakoba June 2-5, 2016.

The resort’s enchanting Yucatan setting where white sand beaches and turquoise water line the Caribbean shore of Mexico is ideal for hosting such an extravaganza. The Fairmont, Rosewood, Banyan Tree, and soon to open Andaz hotel provide 800 luxurious rooms, suites and villas on the 1600 acre eco-conscious property. Restaurants, beach clubs, spas, pools, nature boat trips, El Camaleon Golf Club and El Pueblito Village are amongst mangroves and along six-miles of freshwater lagoons and the sea.

Carl Emberson, Mayakoba’s new VP of Operations coordinated a stellar lineup of internationally acclaimed resident and guest chefs who dazzled attendees with a parade of delicious gustatory offerings. The chefs included: Richard Sandoval (40 restaurants worldwide); Abraham Salum (Komali, Dallas); Fernando Trocca (Sucre, Buenos Aires); Andrew Ormsby (Ormsby Catering, Dallas); Felipe Donnelly (Comodo, New York); Diane DiMeo (Hook & Cleaver, New York and Curator of Mayakoba’s Cooking School); Antonio de Livier (Pacific Cooks Festival, Los Cabos); Maru Botana (Siempre Dulce/Pastry, Buenos Aires); Montse Estruch (Le Cingle, Barcelona); Flavio Federico (Sweets Consultant, Brazil); Enrique Nunez (La Guardia, Havana); Bruno Oteiza (Biko, Mexico City); and Mayakoba chefs: Banyan Tree – Executive Chef David Andrews, Saffron’s Wayu “Light” Wattanakamin; Rosewood – Executive Chef Juan Pablo Loza, Fidel Baez/Desserts; Fairmont – Executive Chef Eric De Maeyer, Koba’s Eva Millan. Participants enjoyed exclusive access to breakfasts, lunches, dinners and interactive cooking classes. The spirit and passion of the chefs and staff meshed beautifully with epicurean, wine and golf aficionados and novices.

“Sharing at Mayakoba’s Masters festival of food was inspirational. Introducing unique styles, new ideas, ingredients, and different methods of cooking further complemented the feeling of family. The comradeship developed amongst chefs and guests, working and mingling together in an interactive format enhanced the experience. It provided an open forum for feedback, enabling us to better understand how we are hitting the mark of palates and food interests. The many choices available for people each day, a signature of Carl’s food events, made it even better,” expressed Andrew Ormsby.

Master of instruction, Jim McLean, got things started with a clinic at his namesake golf school. Later that evening, an opening party presented by Aeromexico and Delta Airlines served a sit down four-course meal to 300 at Rosewood’s outdoor beach palapa. The melt-in-your-mouth bill of fare featured dishes by guest chefs while winemakers, sommeliers, tequila masters and artisanal brewers added to the culinary delights.

Cooking classes attracted a number of enthusiastic non-golfing gourmands who prepared a Thai lunch with Chef “Light” and a layered pastry with Chef Maru at Saffron Restaurant. Other groups enjoyed lunches prepared by talented chefs at Mayakoba restaurants: Punta Bonita, Koba, Agave Azul, Banyan Tree Garden and Las Brisas. The Grand Tasting at Fairmont featured aperitifs and Beringer, Adobe Guadalupe, and Santos Brujos wines.

“Mayakoba’s Food, Wine and Golf is a milestone event with high visibility across the resort, in which all hotels participate. It is truly upscale with the right sponsorships and quality of visiting chefs that compliment our own resident culinary artists, good for the overall resort and a prime opportunity to encourage participation of local townspeople,” said Dennis Clark, Fairmont GM. Event sponsors included American Express, Aeromexico, Delta, Tequila Patrón, Vueve Clicquot, Vinoteca, Heineken, Beringer and Casa Noble Tequila.

Groups of guests were treated to unique dinners prepared by chefs at various resort restaurants: Trocca at Oriente; Millan and Estruch at Koba; and Sandoval at El Puerto. At Fairmont’s Heritage Place, Chefs Enrique Nunez and Bruno Oteiza prepared an alfresco dining experience for twelve. They combined fixings brought from Cuba with local ingredients to create a brilliant epicurean delight of layered complexity and cascading flavors. After dinner Cuba’s culinary legend Nunez joined us for conversation, a limited edition Havana Club Rum and a Cohiba Siglo VI. It doesn’t get much better for this writer, but festivities continued at El Pueblito where guests gathered for Noche Latina, a celebration of Latin music, cocktails and street foods.

The Mayakoba Cup drew 136 players who competed in two person teams over two days in a scramble format the first day and best ball the second. Greg Norman’s El Camaleon design is a stunning field of play that provided an intriguing and challenging layout. The thick mangroves, lagoons and jungle adjacent to the fairways required accurate placement of shots. Resort chefs and sponsors provided sustenance at food and beverage stations on the course. After the competition 200+ tournament players and supporters gathered at Koba for a party, awards, and a live auction to support the Lorena Ochoa foundation that provides children and adults with family-based health, fitness and education programs through golf activities. Cup sponsor Tequila Patron cocktails and a tasty multi-course seafood luncheon by Chef Andrew Ormsby were heartily appreciated. Director of Golf Glen Preciado shared, “The resort’s newest event, the Mayakoba Cup, enabled interrelating and interconnecting the golf experience at El Camaleon with a broader audience across the resort.” El Camaleon also hosts the only PGA Tour event in Mexico, The OHL Classic that celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2016.

The Sands Beach Club at Banyan Tree was the scene of the closing ceremony presented by Travel & Leisure’s Mexico Gourmet Awards. A crowd of 350 intermingled while tasting small dish cuisine, craft cocktails, wine and delectable sweets. Individuals adorned in traditional Mayan warrior dress performed a sundown ritual and fireworks lit up the sky, beach and rolling waves. Banyan Tree’s Executive Chef David Andrews reflected, “I have gained nine, new, chef friends. It expands my horizon and provides ideas that will ultimately enhance our culinary team and guest dining experiences.” Interesting people attracted to an interesting place insured an interesting event appreciated by all.

“I am thrilled with the success of this inaugural gala at Mayakoba and fully convinced the Masters of Food, Wine and Golf will become Mexico’s premier luxury epicurean event. The property comfortably supports such a celebration to maintain a luxury experience that provides exclusivity and a unique opportunity to intimately interact with world class chefs. The entire event is fascinating for hoteliers, staff, guest participants, the media, buyers and clients playing, dining, drinking, talking and relaxing together. It is a wonderful event that is magic by birth and destiny,” said Carl Emberson.

The second annual Mayakoba Masters of Food, Wine & Golf is scheduled for April 20-23, 2017

Guillermo Explores the world to write about Travel, Food, Nature, Golf, and Lifestyles