by Tracy Hyatt, Westworld, managing editor
Few all-inclusive resorts in Mexico have accolades as impressive as Velas Resorts. You literally have to catch your breath when you list off all the “Best This” and “Most Excellent That” achievements its four properties have earned. But none of Velas’ honours hold as much klout as the CAA/AAA Five Diamond Award given to Cocina de Autor restaurant at Grand Velas Riveria. The restaurant, led by Bruno Oteiza, Mikel Alonso, and Xavier Pérez Stone, is the world’s only all-inclusive resort restaurant to be awarded Five Diamonds.
Rare are Five Diamonds. Less than one percent of the 58,000 CAA/AAA diamond-rated properties in North American achieve this top culinary artistry. Canada is home to only six five-diamond restaurants, including Eden in Banff, the only Five Diamond restaurant west of Ontario.
So when chef Xavier Pérez Stone of Cocina de Autor announced that he was on a cross-Canada tour promoting the four luxury Velas resorts, Edmonton’s food and travel trade were abuzz. Stone’s pedigree of culinary awards is lengthy. He was named Mexico’s Best Chef in 2012, and last summer, he took home the top hardware from an Iron Chef International competition held in Toronto. What better way to get a taste of Velas Resorts than with food.
The multi-course meal held at Roztizado started with a crisp palette-cleansing cucumber, lemon and chi cocktail, followed by a playful salad. It looked like cotton candy, but once stirred with a fork, the whipped airy toppy uncovered foie gras, lettuce, grapes and nuts in a creamy dressing. This should have been our first clue that what you see is not what you get. Xavier transforms rarefied ingredients, such as a foie gras into something unfamiliar but appealing to all palettes. No surprise. The Mexican-born Xavier is heavily influenced by Juan Mari Arzak, one of the key figures of Basque cuisine.
Mid-way through the meal, chef Xavier served a perfectly cooked venison that looked deceptively simple but was topped with the complex flavours of raspberries, strawberries, hibiscus, and beet. In total, eight dishes came out of the kitchen, each one better than the previous. Xavier, along with Roztizado’s chef Edgar Gutierrez and his team, lived up to the luxury resort’s CAA/AAA Five Diamond reputation and provided Albertans with a lasting taste of Velas Resorts.
View this year’s list of Alberta Four and Five Diamond winners.
Learn more about the CAA/AAA Diamond program.