Monday, July 24, 2023

RESPECT: Chef Matteo Salas

If there’s one person I’ve grown to respect over the years, it’s Chef Matteo Salas. He returned last week from Europe for a series of dinners featuring talented chefs; all the architects of memorable food. Joining chef Salas on Saturday was Jesus Vasquez Reyna, the chef at Aperi, and Juan Emilio Villasenor, owner of La Cocinteca in Leon and the master of cooking over fire and smoke. The 10 course meal was another one for the books; admitting that I say that every time I eat with him because the experience is, without exception, always the best. 

The Amuse Bouche was an Oyster with Xoconostle and Habanero and a Ceviche Tart that I can still taste. The Pulpo with Chorizo and truffle sauce was sourced from a new vendor who specializes in only two Pacific treasures: octopus and soft shell crabs. The main dishes, the Duck with Mango and Sweet potatoes and the Short Rib with a Cecina mole, put us all over the top. The dessert was served in three courses. In fact, the only thing that was missing from the Chefs Table that night was you.

The wines and spirits were world class – a local and much-loved Casa Dragones Anejo and a wine by Vino de La Reina (no relation to Chef Jesus Vasquez Reyna although we could officially call this his wine now) Pinot Noir 2021 Valle de San Vicente. It’s one of our new favorites with many fruit aromas, a floral element of roses and gardenias and traces of that magical ingredient, chocolate. Every time we dine at the Chefs Table, we discover a new wine that we love; one we’ve never had before. The Chefs Table at Aperi is the primary place for an education in food and wine and, spirits and Chef Matteo Salas is the best of all chef educators.

There was so much light and shadows in the kitchen that night, the photos from this event are left to the professionals. There were several there, including the great, Mexican photographer, Ignacio Urquiza. I left my Nikon at home but did snap a few with a cell phone. The one of Matteo and I was taken by Ignacio’s wife, Laura Cordera; the famous, Mexican food stylist. It was so remarkable to be in the company of so many people who inspire me. 

I mentally wrote my name on the back of the chair at the head of the Chefs table at Aperi. It has a prime view of the kitchen and is the only place to watch a captivating feast in play. Studying these chefs was like watching a perfect ballet - every step in sync; every movement better than the last. The performance was so effortless that I wanted to replay it in my head to remind me why I love to eat with these chefs. The incredible flavors and presentations were better than the anticipation of it all and to tell you the truth, the wait for this dinner nearly devoured me.

To be there to witness the transfer of this holy grail of eating from one great chef to another left me speechless until now. And when it was over, savored, appreciated and enjoyed, the Chefs Table returned to its owner, Chef Jesus Vasquez Reyna, the remarkable, young chef who trained as a Sous chef under Chef Matteo Salas and is now the Chef at Aperi; the place where Matteo was, just five years ago. 

Aperi, I’m happy to report, has finally come full circle. 

Aperi/ Quebrada 101 - Centro, San Miguel de Allende 37700

Phone: 415 152 0941

Daily 2:00 PM – 10:00 PM except Tuesday closed

Chef: Jesus Vasquez Reyna