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Victor Arze Arias, originally from Puerto Vallarta, moved to Sayulita 20 years ago as a teenager. He has worked at a number of high-end restaurants in the area, including the Palladium in Punta de Mita and Don Pedro’s in Sayulita. In 2015, Victor, who has many years of experience cooking, became the head chef of Tierra Viva.
So, first off, how did your passion for cooking develop?
I grew up around cooking. Ever since I was young, my mom used to make pastries, breads, and cakes, and she would sell them. She’d make big cakes for weddings and quinceaneras and do everything by hand. Sometimes it would take her two to four hours just beating the dough. As the older sibling, I had to help cook for my younger siblings, and my dad and I used to cook full meals together. That’s when I started really enjoying cooking and developing new recipes.
How did you get your start as a chef?
Through the years, I’ve had a lot of hands on experience, and I also went to culinary school. After graduating, I worked at a hotel, Decameron, in Bucerias.
What made you want to cook professionally in Sayulita?
All of the ingredients in Sayulita are so fresh and local. I also get to create my own menu. For me, it’s all about creating until a finished product is ready to be served.
I grew up around cooking...through the years, I’ve had a lot of hands on experience, and I also went to culinary school.
Are there any challenges to being a chef in Sayulita? What is harder and what is easier?
The hardest thing is seeing someone else’s creation and not being able to replicate it. As far as to what is easier, you have access to everything here – fresh seafood, produce, basically you can get all the groceries you need.
How would you describe your culinary style?
I like to be creative, and put a modern spin on the dishes I create. So, it ends up being a fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean.
What do you like about being the chef at Tierra Viva?
I’m in charge of everything, so it’s like working at my own place. I get to create and make the dishes, as well as deliver them to the tables, which is great for me because it’s exactly what I like.
What are your favorite, fresh from Sayulita ingredients to use?
Fresh fish…. Dorado, also known as Mahi Mahi, and Red Snapper.
When creating a complete meal in Sayulita, what factors do you take into consideration?
I generally start with a fish and make sure the dish incorporates an ingredient that has Sayulita imprinted on it. For example, I might use a seasonal fruit, such as mango or passion fruit, or seafood that is plentiful in the area.
Do you have a favorite dish on the menu at Tierra Viva? If so, what is it and how would you describe it?
Yes, shrimp in mango sauce. It comes with a cabbage salad, mashed potatoes, and some herbs. It’s a tropical dish that is reminiscent of Sayulita.
Will you share your most entertaining “kitchen disaster” story?
From time to time, certain ingredients may be forgotten, such as salt, or the salsas might get mixed up. But, then I fix it and send the meal back out to the customer.
What’s your favorite kitchen tool to use in Sayulita and why?
A knife – it’s the tool that I use the most. I used it for meat, protein, vegetables, etc. Without it, I can’t cook.
If you could recommend one other Sayulita restaurant other than yours, what would it be?
Both Don Pedro’s and La Rustica are really great restaurants.
If you had to choose a last meal, what would it be?
It would be Mexican food – carne asada or something similar, grilled fish, and a Corona.