The International Flavors of Los Cabos – Talking to an Executive Chef

People can be forgiven for expecting the top chefs in Los Cabos to all be from Mexico. While many of them are, a number of highly acclaimed professional chefs, from all corners of the globe, choose the tip of the Mexican Baja as home.

The win-win here is that every imaginable cuisine, fusion, flavor and culinary invention are awaiting visitors in some of the best hotels, resorts and wedding venues anywhere.

One such renowned international chef is Larbi Dahrouch, Executive Head Chef at the fabulous Acre Baja. Del Cabo Weddings Managing Partner, Arianna Ocampo, spoke with him recently and reports he is delightful and full of stories, rendered in his globally acquired Moroccan-French-American-Spanish accent!

Arianna: How long have you been a chef? How long have you been a chef in Los Cabos?

Chef Larbi: I start working when I was 15 ½. I was born and raised in Morocco and then I moved to France; at 16 years old I start cooking. I was doing apprenticeship, going 2 weeks to school and 2 weeks to a beautiful restaurant, and then so I have been cooking since 1973, so it has been a long time. I was cooking very gastronomic foods, working in the southwest of France, like truffles, all the high end food, porcini mushrooms, all the basic, French base cooking.

And then from there, from France I moved to the United States in the 1980´s so I was there in Washington, D.C., and I worked at Watergate. And then we started to adventure to the different food, we start doing Mediterranean, Southwest of France, but still we keep the French root, you know – the guideline of the cooking. So from there we work in the Southwest, I moved to Paris, and then I moved to the states in 1980 we work at Watergate. From there I work in Boston a little bit, Philadelphia, and then I did the opening for Euro Disney in Paris, and then I moved to Philadelphia and then I come back to Los Cabos in 2003. So, I have been cooking in Los Cabos for 17 years. And then 23 years so I have been cooking almost 35 years.

Arianna: It has been very interesting, all the ton of celebrities that you met and everything…

Chef Larbi: Everywhere, I mean in France, in the Watergate, so many composers, and then so many, we did, and then presidents, Bush, Reagan, we did the birthday party, we did so many famous wedding at The Watergate! All the congress and then I follow, I came with Steiner because don’t forget that Edward Steiner opened the luxury resort in Los Cabos. Because before Las Ventanas, was mostly $200 a room, you can fishing, get drunk, play golf, and go back home, you know. It was kind of what brought me in 2003. He is the one who create luxury in Los Cabos by charging $1000 a room at Las Ventanas.

And that was the first big resort ever open in Los Cabos. So, he called me every week and was like “come, come, come,” an I never made it in ’97 but finally I made it in 2003. When I came he said “no, sorry, it is not for Las Ventanas, it is for One and Only Palmilla,” and I said “no problem, lets go!” I would have been happy to work at Las Ventanas because it was very small, a very beautiful hotel. So, we opened The One and Only in 2003. And then we did so many groups and weddings and we opened with John Travolta’s birthday! We did Colony Capital, the first big plated dinner for 280 at the beach, a wedding, and it’s been fun. Fun, but finding the products in Los Cabos was very hard.

Arianna: How many wedding menus have you prepared per year, approximately?

Chef Larbi: Maybe like 60, 70 a year. 60, 70 wedding. Most wedding we sit down and create the menu with them, with Martha and you, and many wedding planners. My favorite thing to do is to sit down with the guest, we know what they like, they gave us the guideline, and then the next time they arrive we make them a beautiful menu and I think very rarely people said “no, I don’t like that.” They were always happy. And when they try something like that, remember, they say whatever you want to try. Because they know me, and they know the flavor I make.

Arianna: What is your style of cuisine? How would you describe the style?

Chef Larbi: I mean now, my style of cooking its my cooking with local ingredient and lot of flavor of Mexican. Those are my style. My cooking with local ingredient as possible and then a little touch of Mexican flavor. You know like Epazote, Mole, Veracruz. All the Mexican ingredient.

Arianna: What sets your cuisine apart from others in the area?

Chef Larbi: My cooking is very specific flavor-wise. Very fresh. Remember for the Bass family I cook it at the banquet room, I bring it to the beach, and I serve it. I mean that is the quality I do. I don’t like to cook the fish the night before, warm it up and serve it. It is very unique cooking, its fresh, seasoned properly, and served simply. But simply, we don’t have to do simple food though. Very unique, you know like Sea Bass with artichokes or fennel, or with Charmoule sauce. A lot of flavor and it’s unique cooking.

Arianna: Do you specialize in a certain styles, for example, locally sourced, ethnic, Gluten-free? Anything you can share to us?

Chef Larbi: We can do example, I remember in 2009 or 2010, a big group, they were going to Morocco, they wanted a Moroccan dinner. So did Morroccan dinner for 180 guests. We did a tent. It was for Allergan. And then we did Indian dinners. For the G20 we did 120 Indian cooking, breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 5 days. You name it, we can do whatever, we can do French, family style, plated, we can do whatever the guest would like. Gluten-free, dairy free, kosher…the only thing to do Kosher we need a new kitchen. 100% kosher. But we can easily install a new kitchen outside and do kosher.

Arianna: I think a local rabbi from San Lucas can help with making the kitchen Kosher.

Chef Larbi: Yeah and then I do the cooking. I know the food for Kosher anyways.

Arianna: How far in advance should couples make their menu choices?

Chef Larbi: I mean they can, usually the wedding is done once a year. For me it is better one month before like that we can know what is in season. They can give us a guideline, and then we say okay, in this season we cannot get that, but we can get this. One month before is fine.

Arianna: When you are prepare specialty meals such as Kosher, Gluten-free, Halal, is there a special fee for that?

Chef Larbi: I think it should not be because, I mean, if we find the product like we buy other product should be no problem. It should be the same price.

Arianna: How do couples handle doing a tasting for a destination wedding?

Chef Larbi: When the couple books the wedding with us, we offer a complimentary food and beverage tasting. It is such a fun way to get to know our couple better, and for them to try menu options. And narrow the choice down to what exactly what they want to serve. This usually happens a few months before the wedding.

I think when they come the first time they should come, sit down and discover the quality of cooking we do. You know the year before and then they make a decision. You know what I mean? I think it is effective, because we have a restaurant, we don’t do only weddings. When they arrive to check the location, you sit down with them, you have a nice dinner with them, we cook different dishes and then they have already the idea which kind of food they are going to have.

Arianna: Have you had any unusual menu requests that are not that common, for example, here in Cabo?

Chef Larbi: Well sometimes, Chinese food. We never have that. Sometimes people are looking for Chinese dishes, not the weddings, I think a group. We can do whatever, except Chinese. We can do Thai, but Chinese is tough one. We could hire a Chinese chef – bring a Chinese chef from LA and that’s it. But we can do whatever they like.

Arianna: Do you guys also do cakes?

Chef Larbi: Yeah of course, yeah. Any cake. Tres Leche…yeah.

Arianna: Do you get involved coordinating the menu with special signature drinks and mixology?

Chef Larbi: That is our Mixologist, he does that. We provide all the herbs all he need. Oscar, he does great job.

Arianna: Do you have any funny stories that you have had throughout your career?

Chef Larbi: I did a wedding in New Zealand. I was living in Philadelphia and this couple said, like two years before, “can you do a wedding for us?” and I said, “no problem.” And they flew me from Philadelphia to an island south of New Zealand, for 200 people. The guy took the helicopter, he was rich, you know. He took the helicopter, we got lobster, we got the fish, it was in a winery, it was unbelievable. The kitchen was new. They just built the kitchen in the winery. And working with the people from New Zealand, it was unbelievable. We did like a 9-course dinner. Somebody else did the cake.  It was from Lobster, Oyster, Shrimp, Black Cod, Lamb, they had Lamb Chops.

Arianna: I don’t know how many hours you guys worked…I can’t believe it.

Chef Larbi: 10 days…they flew us 10 days before we get everything ready. And the kitchen wasn’t ready. We had to prep, cleaning, buying the vegetable, go to the farm. I didn’t want to leave that island; it was so beautiful.

Arianna: Do you have any tips for wedding menus or any “do’s or don’ts” for couples?

Chef Larbi: No, I think in the wedding, when I see more wedding people, they are more focused on decoration, flower. I think when I see at Acre the “family style” of serving, people love that. Because they are talking and then, and then they pick up, because when you put the plate in front of the guest, they getting up, they go somewhere, they walking, talking to other people. I think if you do family style it stay nice and hot, the food.  And people can grab, eat, go. That is the choice of the guest if they want plated or family. But family work very well for wedding because they are more focused on who’s there, how they dress up, flower, decorations. I think family style cooking.

Arianna: And that is the way that they can please more people, right? Because whenever it is a set menu there will be people who don’t eat meat or fish…

Chef Larbi: So, we do 2 vegetables, 1 poultry, 1 beef, 1 fish and they have all the choice.  And then it can stay in the cast iron and it stay nice and hot.

Arianna: Do you think that considering what is happening right now, I have been hearing that we will no longer be doing buffets?

Chef Larbi: I am against buffet to start with!

Arianna: For action stations even, are you hearing that it won’t be allowed?

Chef Larbi: I guess we will have to wait and see what regulations are made…

Conclusion

Can you imagine the level a chef would have to attain in order to work at the massive Washington, DC Watergate complex? To cook for John Travolta’s birthday party? To be flown to South Pacific islands for private events? To open and work in world class, prestigious hotel properties and venues in Los Cabos?

Cabo is well known destination wedding location that offers fun as well as tranquility. The calibre of hospitality industry talent in Los Cabos makes luxury experiences NEXT LEVEL. At Acre, you have the added bonus of “grounded” luxury, with farm to table organic fruits and vegetables grown on site at this amazing Oasis!

Reach out to us if you have any questions about a Cabo wedding! Click here f you’d like to find out more about Chef Larbi or Acre. Click here to follow Acre on Instagram or Facebook.

PHOTO SOURCES:

LA 76 Photography

Gina & Ryan Photography

Bernardo Arce

Sandford Creative

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