Women Chefs Redefining Luxury All-Inclusive Dining In Riviera Maya

Food & Drink

In the current era of conscious travel, where food plays a pivotal role in shaping guests’ experiences, the Mexican woman-led culinary team at Impression Moxché by Secrets in Playa del Carmen are turning the notion of a boring all-inclusive buffet on its head, redefining what a luxury culinary experience should be at a top-tier, all-inclusive resort.

Master Chef Karla Encisco and Pastry Master Chef Mara Carrillo have been shaking things up with locally inspired dishes, fresh organic ingredients, and sustainably sourced seafood since the resort’s grand opening in December 2022.

Both chefs continue to wow guests across every dining venue they manage at the resort – a whopping 14 – including the acclaimed Teodoro, the resort’s signature restaurant where the 8-course author’s choice menu rotates to keep things fresh and exciting.

The goal of the resort’s culinary team, led by executive chef Orlando Trejo, is to establish Impression Moxché by Secrets as a culinary centered, sustainable hotel, focusing on bringing seasonal dishes that may be new or unknown for their guests to explore. Enciso and Carrillo are taking this task to heart and it shows in every aspect, from ingredient sourcing to guest experience.

Enciso’s path to the culinary world was not straightforward. She was an industrial engineer, working for large corporations before realizing that her love for Mexican cuisine could translate into a happier career. Through many fortuitous encounters and very hard work, she made her way through cruise ship kitchens, followed by a few notable high-end restaurants in the Riviera Maya area before landing the job of executive sous chef at Impression Moxché by Secrets.

Thanks to her passion for Mexican culture and her inquisitive nature, Enciso has become an absolute expert in Maya culture and traditional recipes, learning from Maya women who shared the wisdom they inherited from their grandmothers. She also led gastronomic tours to Maya communities with a focus on sustainability, community support and empowerment of women cooks through cooking classes, contributing to the conservation of their traditional gastronomy.

At first, her all-inclusive experience was not easy. She had to be patient so she could learn the ropes, and she got a lot of support from guests on social networks. After all, the guests are her priority, so she persevered. A year and six months later, all-inclusive is still a challenge but she loves her job.

Although she didn’t create the original concepts and menus, which range from the casual Seaside Beach Club and rooftop El Cielo to Teodoro — the resort’s signature fine dining restaurant — she continues evolving them through feedback from her staff and guests. To focus on her job overseeing the resort’s restaurants, she has recently handed de reins of Teodoro to the capable hands of Master Chef Alexis Valera, a top 10 winner in the San Pellegrino Young Chef world competition.

Here, the menu showcases ancestral Mexican cuisine executed with French techniques and modern aesthetic, but you won’t find familiar classics such as mole, for instance. Instead, you might get an octopus carpaccio with hibiscus flowers, beets and dried chiles, or a catch of the day topped with thin slices of local squash and mint. The restaurant’s signature dish is a lobster and bean taco, inspired by the original caretaker of the land in which the property sits and for which the restaurant is also named.

Aside from the spectacular dishes at Teodoro, the Taco Experience at Dos Almas is noteworthy. Offering seven gourmet tacos representing various regions of the country, each paired with a Mexican drink — from craft beers to wine, spirits, and non-alcoholic choices like aguas frescas and even Boing, Mexico’s beloved fruit soda – it presents a dish that is familiar to diners, yet prepared with unexpected ingredients and uniquely arranged. Think crispy soft-shell crab with green pipián and sour prickly pear salsa, or crispy pork belly with a Oaxaca-inspired red pipián and fresh corn puree, all served over freshly made heirloom corn tortillas.

All this is done with a sustainable approach, which the chefs and staff embrace wholeheartedly. This means less waste, composting residue, and sourcing local ingredients from Maya producers as well as responsibly caught seafood.

“We are very proud to be ambassadors of Pesca con Futuro, an NGO that promotes the responsible consumption of seafood and aquaculture products to guarantee the future of our fisheries,” says Enciso. “To raise awareness about the importance of sustainable fisheries, we only consume certain marine species such as bluefin tuna farmed in Ensenada and octopus from Sisal, Yucatán, which we buy from the world’s largest producer of octopus.”

This octopus is caught with lines to ensure that only males are pulled out, which ensures the preservation of the food chain. “Illegal fishing is done more quickly with a harpoon, killing the females as well and disrupting the food chain,” says the chef. “We also source other types of products from Maya communities such as recados, the seasoning mixes used in Yucatec cuisine.”

On the sweet side of things, pastry chef Mara Carrillo showcases her impressive credentials throughout the property, from breakfast pastries to handcrafted truffles and incredible desserts. Guests are able to get a taste of her prowess shortly after checking in, with a wide selection of barks and bonbons available at the self-service table next to the lobby bar.

Her background includes an internship at the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo, a specialization in classic French pastry at the prestigious Lycée Technique et Hôtelier de Monaco, and professional training in pastry and chocolate making at L’ école Lenôtre and L’ école Valrhona in Paris, and in Las Vegas at the Melissa Coppel chocolate school. She is an ambassador for prestigious chocolate makers Callebaut and Cacao Barry as well.

“Pastry has been my passion for 12 years since I have been practicing it professionally,” says the chef. “Personally, I love tasting chocolate in the form of a shiny bonbon that surprises with flavor fillings that explode in all their intensity in the mouth.” One look at the pastry cart paraded during breakfast at Seaside, loaded with her interpretation of traditional Mexican sweet breads, and you will agree.

“The most emblematic desserts at Moxché represent each of its culinary corners,” she says. “What better way to pamper the senses than through sweet experiences, childhood memories in the form of a lemon pie, or that your trip to the Caribbean is forever linked to the fruitiness of a good artisanal sorbet made with Mexican fruit.”

With these women chefs and their innovative programs leading the way and changing the face of dining at all-inclusive resorts in the area, the days of the same ol’ buffets are counted.

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