Guide to Riviera Maya Dining: Interview With the Chef

Mexican cuisine is popular the world over. However, the country is so large that its regional cuisines are more diverse than you might imagine. One of the Riviera Maya’s greatest treasures is its food, and thanks to our guide, you’ll be able to experience the best of it. We spoke with Crescenciano Nerey, Mahekal’s Executive Chef, who oversees all food and beverage operations at the resort.

First of all, what’s so special about the food in Riviera Maya?

Today you can find all kinds of cuisines here, but the regional cuisine is very unique. It traces its roots back to the Mayan people. 

What flavors and ingredients are central to Riviera Maya cuisine?

Riviera Maya cuisine showcases Ingredients from the Yucatán Peninsula, such as chiles (habanero), corn — in all shapes and forms — pork, turkey, and achiote. 

Is Riviera Maya cuisine derived from indigenous traditions or Spanish influences? Or both?

Both! Riviera Maya cuisine originated with the Maya, but it was strongly influenced by European and Arabic cultures over the past 500 years.

What are the most popular dishes in Riviera Maya?

The most popular traditional Mayan foods are relleno negro, lime soup, tikin xik (roasted fish), and the world-famous cochinta pibil (slow-roasted pork). Of course, people from the Riviera Maya also love tacos. Make sure to have a delicious pastor taco with grilled pineapple and molcajete sauce, paired with an artisan Mexican pilsner — it’s a delight!

If you had to pick one dish that guests need to try, what would it be?

From the dishes mentioned, I would say tikin xik. It’s simple and flavorful at the same time. The Mayan people traditionally prepared fish this way, seasoned with anchiote, red, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers and roasted in an underground oven covered with banana leaves to add flavor. 

What’s your favorite dish to cook? What’s your favorite dish to eat?

I love to both eat and cook ceviche. Start with the freshest seafood you can get and combine it with chiles, lime, onions, and coriander. It’s the perfect food for a day on the beach!  

Tell us about chiles en nogada. What makes it special?

Poblano chiles are the backbone of chiles en nogada, a traditional Mexican dish. This homegrown recipe starts with stuffing the chiles with picadillo, a type of hash consisting of a mixture of meat and dried fruit, before covering them in walnut sauce and adding a garnish of pomegranate seeds and parsley. It’s truly one of Mexico’s most patriotic and traditional dishes.

If guests want to take a bit of Riviera Maya cuisine back home with them, is there a dish that they can try cooking for themselves at home?

Yes — I would recommend the lime soup. This chicken soup is light, fresh, and flavorful, made with shredded chicken, vegetables, fresh cilantro, and a tangy lime-infused broth. It’s easy to cook and very delicious.

Learn more about the dining program at Mahekal Beach Resort and start planning your stay today.