Vote for Elio Xicum to win the Saint Pellegrino Young Chef award from Italy. Voting can be done through: https://www.sanpellegrinoyoungchef.com/finedininglovers-award
Merida, Yucatan, (October 08, 2021).- This October 27 Elio Xicum, originally from Chumayel, Yucatán municipality, will have the opportunity to travel to Milan, Italy to compete in an international cooking contest, with a dish that he designed inspired by his mother and his Maya indigenous roots, but the people will be the ones who decide if he wins, for through a virtual vote.
To get here, he won, among the 135 proposals in the world, as a Latin American region and among 15 more people from other Latin American countries, as well as among five more from Mexico. Xicum finally became the winner in the Fine Dining Lovers Food category, and he has now moved up to the world level representing all Latin America.
The contest is promoted by the San Pellegrino mineral water brand, which, every two years, launches this space to select two chefs under 30 years of age from around the world; and on this edition, Xicum participates with the creation of the dish “Tamal Nohoch Ná”.
“It is a tamale of turkey gizzards with black recado sauce and Ixil onions cooked under ashes”, he describes the recado as a Maya identity and the small onions as a product that deserves visibility; his inspiration in the kitchen is maternal and protective, “but it is also a creation that gives life, hence the idea of being able to create a dish that represents us” Xicum said.
He expresses that a tamal is a symbol of national identity, as is corn. But it is not only in the food where he creates this identity but also in the plate where he mounts the tamale.
With the support of the potter Luis May, they made a plate that did not exist physically, only conceptually in his mind; he explained the idea to the potter and he created it. “It symbolizes a woman who spreads her shawl.”
He highlights the shawl as a symbol of protection, referring to the type of cuisine he makes (maternal and protective), “it is a work of art and the tamal is mounted on it as a symbol of national identity.”
To imagine this dish as it turned out, he was inspired by a rainy day, in which his mother covered her nephew with a shawl.
“Cuisine has a great power to generate visibility that I think we need to have this opportunity on platforms and continue to make known who we are,” Xicum continued
This dish talks a little about what happens in his town, not only in Chumayel but in each indigenous town. Xicumsays that this is the intention of the plate, the empowerment of indigenous peoples.
Being just over a month away from a contest in which he will represent all of Latin America worldwide, brings him mixed feelings, as it has required a lot of sacrifices to get here.
“Many times I have had to put some cardboard or some newspapers under the table to fall asleep and save hours of sleep to avoid going home and returning to the restaurant; or those times when we go hungry, sleepy, tired, we really don’t have it easy and much less as Yucatecan Mayas and much less as belonging to an indigenous community, we don’t have it easy ”.
But today, being able to highlight that his cooking is something he learned from home, fills him with pride “because that means we can do great things with the knowledge of our ancestors.”
He considers his achievement as a motivation for future generations, “I am representing what I am, my community, my indigenous peoples, my ethnic group.” And he finds his mother as a fundamental part of the concept he has created in his kitchen because he still remembers his mother frying panuchos at dawn to go to sell them at school and provide him with the money so that he could continue his studies.
He also appreciates the work of his father, who is a tailor and, with the elaboration of guayaberas, was always his support; “I believe that my family has always been present in every dish that I have ever cooked.”
But he emphasizes that, in addition to his family, his community, indigenous peoples are his inspiration for cooking; “I think bringing these issues to the table, is a very important thing to do…. The kitchen is a great opportunity to say ‘here we are’, it is a great opportunity to empower indigenous peoples ”, Elio Xicum concluded.
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