Mexico is one of the most visited countries on earth, but what is less well known is the fact that it is also one of the greatest gastronomic destinations on the planet.
Food is ingrained in every aspect of Mexican life and culture, and Paul Hollywood is off to explore the national obsession, with a grand tour of Mexican cuisine – and its many, many surprises - in a brand-new series from North One, Paul Hollywood Eats Mexico.
Burritos, nachos, fajitas? Not Mexican, they were invented by the USA. The real Mexican culinary experience is a much broader, surprising and exciting proposition. This is the country that invented chocolate, still eats recipes from thousands of years ago and is home to the most dangerous fruit in the world.
And, happily for Paul Hollywood, Mexicans also love a pastry, specifically Pan Dulce (literal translation: sweet breads), a style of baking that even Paul has never come across before. Mexico is the ideal destination for Britain’s favourite baker to go on a culinary voyage of discovery and try his hand at some very specialised local challenges.
Over three episodes, Paul learns about the country’s culture, character and history through its cuisine. His adventure begins in the capital, Mexico City, as he samples the simple yet delicious Taco Al Pastor with a tour guide known as the ‘Taco Hunter’.
Paul Hollywood said: “Mexico is an amazing country, with amazing people and amazing food. The surprises never stopped coming. For example, I never thought I would be judging a Cornish Pasty competition in a Mexican town square, backed by a full mariachi band. Which, for the avoidance of doubt, I did.”
His CDMX (Ciudad de México) journey also includes a trip to the Central de Abasto market where he tries a variety of unusual fruits and at San Juan Market, café owner Felipe Reyes introduces Paul to some of the exotic delicacies on offer – from grilled cockroaches to crocodile tacos. Will he accept the offer of a baked tarantula?
Keen to explore the parts of Mexico other foods shows don’t reach, Paul visits Tijuana, where he walks along the infamous wall that runs along the US border and joins restaurant owner Claudette Zepeda on a food tour of Sonoran, Sinaloan, Jaliscan and Guadalajaran eateries.
Paul also meets up with a cactus restaurant owner who shows him how to take cactus from plant to plate, before he samples another local delight – insects. Mexico is the world’s biggest consumers of insects, so it’s only fair that Paul indulges in a tasting menu in Oaxaca.
It wouldn’t be a proper foodie road trip for Paul without a bit of baking and Elena Reygardes, one of the best chefs and bakers in Latin America, teaches Paul how to make Concha, Mexico’s most popular Pan Dulce.
He also gets roped into judging a pasty competition in a small town with a very unexpected connection to Cornwall and finds himself armed with a piping bag in an exclusive bakery helping to prepare an exquisitely decorated four-tier Quinceanera cake for a fifteenth birthday party – the Mexican equivalent of sweet sixteen, so the pressure is on.
In Cancun, Paul works his way through a six-course banquet of ancient Mayan inspired cuisine, spends a raucous evening sampling beer in a cantina, and is schooled in all things Tequila and Mezcal. He’s also subjected to a chilli-themed restaurant challenge, complete with chilli-infused drinks and discovers the ultimate Mexican hangover cure – which may well come in handy after this part of the trip!
Ian Dunkley, Commissioning Editor for Factual Entertainment at Channel 4, said: “Paul Hollywood is taking us beyond burritos, nachos and enchiladas to show us what Mexican food and drink is really all about. This is a tour of Mexico like no other.”
Ewan Keil, Executive Producer for North One, said: “Paul and the whole crew knew Mexico would be different, just not how different. This series is a real eye opener and you will never think about Mexican food – or Mexico - in the same way again.”
Paul Hollywood Eats Mexico will air on Channel 4 later in 2022.