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Rock Pepper Scissors

12 April, 2019

Krug Cellar Master Éric Lebel and 13 Krug Ambassade Chefs follow the Pepper Trail in Oaxaca.

From Mexico to the world, the pepper has beguiled us for millennia and when Krug Cellar Master Éric Lebel and 13 Chefs, all Krug Ambassadors, came together in Oaxaca – Land of the seven Moles – to perpetuate its legacy, past and present converged on the plate.

Rock Pepper Scissors

Back to the Roots
Just like pepper farmers, our journey began before dawn, while the city of Oaxaca enjoyed its peaceful slumber and even the vivid colours of its facades took a rest under the moonlight. It was a long drive, but the bumpy road kept us awake enough to witness the Mexican countryside radiate with the glow of a rising sun. As we arrived at the pepper farm, the vast intrigue of the adventure distracted us from the night’s residual cold and the morning rays illuminated the rows of crops with an almost blinding light. It was clear that nature commanded this land and had been doing so for eons.

Guided by a local farmer, some of the Chefs bonded over their first-hand appreciation of this year’s single ingredient.
Stems to Market
Our exciting pursuit of the pepper then led us to the sprawling Mercado de Abastos in Central Oaxaca.

At Chiles Secos La Especial, every pepper imaginable was displayed proudly, hanging in massive bunches from above, as well as in amply overflowing jute sacs: the rattling Cascabel, the potent Àrbol, the ubiquitous Ancho Rojo, as well as the prized Chilehuacle Negro.
Seeds from Tradition
For over 25 years, Abigail Mendoza Ruiz has been an icon in Teotitlán, the next stop on our pepper trail. One of ten children, Abigail is known for her Zapotec cooking, beautiful weaving, large family and welcoming spirit.

Upon our arrival, she was garbed in traditional Zapotec dress with dark cherry ribbons in her hair and greeted us with her contagious smile. We shared a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée but Abigail was quick to return to her Chicostle chillis. After some of the Chefs helped her deseed them with a small spoon, her 13 new pupils observed as she roasted her robust peppers on the comal over scorching coals, poking and prodding them with a small branch.
Fruit of Intrigue
Armed with a newfound appreciation for their single ingredient, each Chef would create a dish to complement the flavours and aromas of a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée or Krug Rosé. Method and inspiration varied greatly, as they selected their peppers to use in recipes influenced by their own unique cultures.

While the Chefs manned their makeshift cooking stations, their smiles and friendly conversation subsided and a palpable silence took over the space as their focus intensified.

These chefs are great artists whose creativity, rare expertise and genius made them able to elaborate extraordinary and succulent recipes. It has been an exceptional Encounter, where osmosis took place between craftsmen from different continents because of their common love for the culinary art and appreciation for Krug.

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