Pamela MacNaughtan

When my friend Sylvie told me about Chef Mavi Graf from Arte Culianario and her cooking class in Puerto Vallarta I was intrigued. I love taking cooking classes when I travel. It’s a great way to learn more about a new culture and to try dishes that you may be too shy to order at a restaurant.

Sylvie made all the arrangements. All I had to do was take a bus from Bucerias to Puerto Vallarta (a 20 min drive) and meet Chef Mavi at the Starbucks near her house. Which sounds way more boring than it actually was.

Have you ever taken a local bus in Mexico? Let me tell you, it’s an experience and a half. The ride from Bucerias to Puerto Vallarta was only 30 pesos ($2.40), which was awesome, however, the driver didn’t slow down for speed bumps. In fact, he didn’t really drive slow at all. I cannot tell you how many times my arse flew off the chair. At one point I almost landed on the floor. By the time I arrived in Puerto Vallarta I had decided that I need buy a donut pillow thingy to sit on to keep my body from bruising the next time I decide to take a local bus. After tripping on my way out of the bus (which took off the second my foot left the doors), I headed over to Starbucks, ordered something to drink, and waited for Chef Mavi to pick me up.

Our day started with trips to the butcher, the market, and the tortilla factory (where we ate fresh hot tortillas wrapped around panela cheese).

I was in heaven as Chef Mavi took us to her favourite butcher, Zoraya, especially since it was still morning and they still had carnitas on sale (crispy fried pork). Carnitas is my new favourite food, and there was no way I was going to be THAT CLOSE to carnitas and not buy some. So, I bought a few pieces and stuck them in my bag (where it stayed for the entire day!).

After the butcher, we headed to the market where I swooned over freshly caught seafood and fresh produce. Sick, I know. I not totally sure why fresh food gets my so excited. While we stood in the produce market I wished I had an apartment and that I was there shopping for myself and not tagging along as Chef Mavi shopped for our class.

Yes, I love cooking and creating THAT MUCH!

When we had all the ingredients we needed Chef Mavi took us back to her home where she showed us how to make a selection of contemporary Mexican dishes.

Our Menu

  • Mini Sopes de Chorizo con Queso de Cabra: mini sopes topped with pork chorizo, goat cheese and a variety of wonderful salsas made in a “molcajete” (volcanic rock mortar)
  • Cactus Salad: Cacti, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and peppers
  • Cochinita Pibil: a Mayan pulled pork dish in a hearty tomato sauce with achiote paste, made from the bark of trees found only in the Yucatan.
  • Crepes with passion fruit sauce, topped with fresh berries and mint.


I watched intently as Chef Mavi made Tamarind Margaritas (which I now call Mavi Margaritas), and then snarfed down an obscene amount of homemade tortilla chips and spicy guacamole. I loved sitting at the breakfast bar and watching Chef Mavi working away in her kitchen, she is such a delightful person. I would give just about anything to sit in her kitchen 24/7, listen to her talk about Mexican food, and life. In fact, when I return to Bucerias in the fall I’m hoping to see Chef Mavi again and have an informal foodie visit.

Chef Mavi talked about ingredients as she prepared each course, plating the food in her kitchen and then inviting myself and the two other people in the class to sit at the table on her patio, overlooking the marina.

I sat at her beautiful decorated table and slowly ate each course, trying to not get full as I had a night food tour afterwards (yeah, I know, it was dumb planning on my part).

The food was super.

Chef Mavi has a passion for food, and she is almost always in her kitchen. On the weekends you can find her at the Farmer’s Market in Puerto Vallarta in the Co-op building, selling food fresh from her kitchen. If you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta and you want to take a cooking course, book a class with Chef Mavi at Arte Culinario. I know, I sound like a commercial, but I can’t help it. I just adore her, and I cannot wait to see her again when I return in the fall.


  • April 7, 2013

    Pamela, how wonderful you write. Thank you for this lovely write-up that so accurately describes the living food legend that is my mother, Chef Mavi Graf. It was a delight to meet you, hope it is the first of many afternoons we spend together. Salud, Cristina.

  • Pingback: Tamarind Margarita | Savoir Faire Eats

    July 11, 2013

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