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Juan Manuel Castiglioni, born in Argentina and raised in Uruguay, has traveled around the world picking up cooking skills and techniques everywhere he has traveled. Previously, he was the executive chef at Ginger Garden Lounge (Vietnamese / Thai fine dining) in Nuevo Vallarta, which is about an hour south of Sayulita. However, nine months ago, Juan opened CocinArte Catering Gourmet, which offers not only catering, but also a number of other services, including in-home cooking classes in Sayulita.
How did your interest in cooking develop?
I was about 19 years old and in Uruguay, finishing high school, and thinking about what I wanted to do for work. I thought about architecture and then decided against it. Instead, I decided to travel for a while and then came back to Uruguay with a more clear vision. My mom was a pastry chef and my grandma and grandpa came from an Italian family with a big love of food. I had always liked the kitchen and cooking, and I realized I shared that passion and love for food. So, I said okay, I want to study and become a chef.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
At this moment, with CocinArte Catering Gourmet, I describe my style as combining flavors of the world with local ingredients from this Mexican region. I’ve traveled to 26 countries and have picked up cooking skills in each of them. For me, travel to other countries is research. I try the traditional / real flavors of the country, which I often find in the streets. After I am familiar with the traditional techniques and flavors, I become an alchemist, transforming these flavors into a fusion with local Mexican ingredients.
What are your most popular menu options?
The Mexican appetizers are really popular, as well as the Asian plates. The desserts are also very popular– everyone loves deserts. Cardamom Crème Brulee and Chocolate Marquise (Mexico has really good chocolate) are big hits.
Do you offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options? If so, will you tell me more about these options?
Yes, of course. Mexico is very good for vegetarian options. For instance, I like to use Huitlacoche mushrooms, which grow on ears of corn here. I buy most everything, 90% of the ingredients I use, fresh at the local markets. When I cook, I try to use 100% natural flavor and stay away from anything with preservatives. I also like to incorporate grains into my cooking, which are very healthy. The Quinoa Bean Burgers I make are really amazing and very popular.
What type of events do you cater for in Sayulita?
I cater for all types of events at ConcinArte Catering Gourmet - weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, and for those who are getting together just for the pleasure of eating. I also offer drop off platters, such as an Italian platter with cheese, meat, and bread.
What size of groups do you generally cater to?
I offer private chef services for 1 – 8 people and cater for groups from 2 to 300 people.
What do you like about catering in Sayulita?
In Sayulita, the people are really relaxed and have a bohemian style. They tend to share their experiences and I feel I can really connect with them. I also like that I can provide happiness to people through the food I cook.
You also offer other services, such as cooking classes, chef’s table, and tastings. I’d love to hear more about these services.
I teach cooking classes at the university in Nuevo Vallarta, but I also do private cooking classes. Generally, most people ask for Mexican cooking classes, but there are many other options I offer.
I also offer Chef’s Table, where I bring two chefs into a person’s home, and each chef prepares 2 courses. The chefs sit and eat at the table with the clients and everyone gets to know each other. It’s a great cultural exchange and gastronomical experience.
Tastings are another service I offer. It can be Mezcal, Tequila, Artisanal beers, or wine. If desired, the tastings can be paired with h’orderves or an entire meal, whatever the guests want. Tastings are really fun.
I also offer a detox program for people who are looking to improve their health.