Mexican chefs to be awarded important gastronomy prize

Nicos is run by a mother-son duo and it's located in a middle-class neighborhood. They insist their success comes from their traditional and homemade recipes

Mexican chefs to be awarded Latin America's most important gastronomy prize
A shrimp tamale from Nicos – Photo: Taken from Nicos' Facebook page
English 06/09/2018 13:20 Notimex Mexico City Claudia Pacheco Ocampo Actualizada 13:34

Chefs María Elena Lugo and Gerardo Vázquez will receive the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award 2018 on October 30 in Bogota, Colombia, for representing Mexican cuisine for several decades.

This is the first time Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants awards two chefs, as they have proven that a menu based on family tradition can transcend generations, at their restaurant, Nicos, in Mexico City.

Gerardo Vázquez says that "we are satisfied with what we have achieved with this traditional Mexican family cuisine restaurant in the Clavería de Azcapotzalco neighborhood, we never intended to be a luxury place, or an author's kitchen, we're simply a family restaurant ", said Gerardo Vázquez.

María Elena Lugo says that she opened Nicos in 1957, with her then-fiancé, Raymundo Vázquez.

"We've been through a great adventure and we didn't think that it would reach 61 years. During this time we have been faithful to our principles and that is why we present homemade food, the same one I knew since I was a child, I didn't attend gastronomy school," she said.

She says books were her teachers, but she also relied on advice given by ladies she met on the market and other relatives who were fond of cooking.

María Elena Lugo will later study courses on Mexican gastronomy with her son Gerardo.

"We also learned from traditional Purépecha cooks from Chiapas, Veracruz, and other places", Gerardo Vázquez emphasized.

The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented during Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants award ceremony, sponsored by S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, on October 30 in Bogotá.

Throughout her life, chef María Elena Lugo has maintained a strong belief in the cultural and gastronomic value of the traditional Mexican cuisine and has been instrumental in bringing it to the first row of the culinary scene.

Chef Gerardo Vázquezinherited her beliefs and joined his mother in Nicos' kitchen 20 years ago.

"Mexican cuisine has products from origin, it's seasonal, not wasteful and has its own techniques. Mexico has one of the greatest biodiversities in the world and cultural diversity as well, and cooking is part of its national identity, although we have many styles, such as the northern one, which has European, Oriental and Italian influences,” commented the chef.

He emphasized that by proving that traditional cuisine is a key element in the culture of a country, they played an important role in the declaration of traditional Mexican gastronomy as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2010.

The Chiles en nogada is one of the specialties at Nicos, but only in season. There are other classic dishes that are also very popular, such as the dried cream soup, crab michmole, guacamole, the neck in pulque and chile pasilla sauce, as well as the tomatillo tart.

William Drew, general editor of Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants, said that Nicos has played a key role in the culinary history of Mexico City for over 60 years, which is an incredible achievement.

“The success of the restaurant is the result of the mother-son duo, whose attractive personalities and tireless enthusiasm have generated a lot of love and respect, for these reasons, we are presenting them with this well-deserved prize.”

Other winners of the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award in Latin America include chefs such as Gastón Acurio (Peru), Alex Atala (Brazil), Enrique Olvera (Mexico), Claude Troisgros (Brazil) and Guillermo González Beristáin (Mexico).