Travel Through Taste
James Beard-winning Austin chef announces 2024 culinary tours in Mexico
Foodies and travelers love to experience a place through its food, but navigating the tourist landscape can lead to some less-than-life-changing meals. With an itinerary from a James Beard Award-winning chef, that's no longer a risk.
Chef Iliana de la Vega, last year's Best Chef: Texas and owner of Austin's El Naranjo, is inviting Austinites on nine guided tours to four cities in Mexico in 2024, using food as her guiding partner. Also leading the tours will be de la Vega's daughter, Isabel Torrealba, a food writer and Mexican cultural anthropologist .
De la Vega grew up in Mexico City and ran an acclaimed restaurant in Oaxaca, specializing in regional cuisine, that even made it to the cover of Bon Appetit. This would certainly be enough to gain tourists' trusts as a culinary expert, but there's something even better: Her U.S. career has been shaped by her special ability to teach others about Mexican food while protecting its heritage.
Her popular tours are based on food, of course, but also explore local culture through art and artisan crafts. Everyone stays together with "beautiful and luxurious lodgings and amenities," so all the planning is completely the responsibility of Mexican Culinary Traditions, the mother-daughter tour company.
“Traveling Oaxaca with Iliana is not just another tour, it’s a culinary tour de force – an edible expedition into the extraordinary culture(s) and history of this unique, original place of Mexican civilization," said former Texas Agriculture Commissioner and writer Jim Hightower in a release.
"Generally, I’m not inclined to take guided tours, much less to tout one, but this small-group journey with de la Vega (who is Oaxacan, and a fabulous chef to boot) provides a perfect mix of indigenous and modern Oaxaca" he continued. "Plus, you get to eat the whole thing!”
The four tours go to Iliana's two hometowns, so to speak, and two more cities:
- "Oaxaca City: Ancient Traditions Alive" promises natural and architectural splendor, great markets, and a close look at the region's "exquisitely complex cuisine."
- "Mexico City: Where Worlds Collide" is a more "cosmopolitan" experience that reflects not just the bustling city, but its Aztec roots. Visitors should expect street food as well as formal refinement.
- "Yucatán: Modern Tastes & Mayan Traces" takes place in the capital city, Mérida, and displays a strong mix of pre-colonial and colonial influences, amplified by lots of local artists.
- Michoacán: Indigenous Flavors" explores the diversity of the region (from coastline to mountains) as well as long indigenous traditions. It discusses both pre-Columbian and Spanish influence.
“Through El Naranjo and the culinary trips," said De la Vega, "I keep my dream of sharing the food and culture of Mexico with the world alive.”More information including 2024 dates and sample itineraries is available at mexicanculinarytraditions.com.