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Learning Mexican food, culture with Chef Miriam in Puerto Vallarta
By Tom Adkinson
February 3, 2023

chef miriam flores
Programs that Chef Miriam Flores calls “culinary experiences” begin with a personal greeting at her front gate. Image by Tom Adkinson

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – “Hola! Bienvenido a mi casa!”

That’s the greeting Chef Miriam Flores extends as she opens the wrought-iron gate to her home in Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone and launches a three-hour cooking class that culminates in a multi-course dinner you help create.

chef miriam flores
Chef Miriam, who can shift into an unexpected Irish brogue in an instant, makes her presentations more conversations than lectures Image by Tom Adkinson

Inside and up a flight of stairs, the stage is set for Chef Miriam. She offers you an excellent margarita, captivates you with her personal and culinary journey, puts you to work with a mortar and pestle grinding spices and peppers to make a salsa and a mole and ultimately serves you probably the most memorable dinner of your Mexican vacation.

Chef Miriam’s culinary heritage is genuine. She was born in Los Angeles, but she spent several early childhood years in Pabelo, a village of only 300 people. The most important person to her was the grandmother who cared for her while her parents were migrant farm workers in the U.S.

chef miriam spices
Salsas and moles that culinary experience participants blend begin with careful selections of multiple ingredients. Image by Tom Adkinson


She begins her class with a margarita and stories of everyday rural mountain life in the state of Jalisco, the birthplace of tequila and mariachis. (One of your takeaways from the evening is Chef Miriam’s margarita recipe. When asked, she states a preference for 100 percent agave tequilas such as Centerario and El Jimador.)

chef miriam margarita
Chef Miriam stresses the freshness and seasonality of ingredients in her traditional Mexican recipes. Image by Tom Adkinson

She describes the seasonality of the foods, such as queso fresco they could make only during calving season, and the family tasks of grinding corn by hand, picking chiles and mixing spices.

“I love to pass on the food knowledge that came from my grandmother,” she says, adding, “I didn’t know how special my village was until my family moved to Oregon.” That was when she was 10.

Food, she says, was a big factor fitting in while in Oregon, explaining that family celebrations became neighborhood events with local residents who didn’t know what real Mexican food was about.

chef miriam prep station
Chef Miriam’s prep station for her culinary classes later is transformed into a formal dining table. Image by Tom Adkinson

Chef Miriam thrived there, earned a full scholarship to the University of Oregon and eventually transitioned to a two-year Cordon Bleu program in Portland. She was inspired by the food ways of Europe, worked as a private chef for a time and opened a catering business in Cork, Ireland. She made a name for herself selling Mexican salsa at local farmers’ markets.

Five years in Cork taught her a new skill – the ability to shift her speaking voice into a delightful Irish brogue. My fellow students in Chef Miriam’s home laughed out loud when we heard this one-time Mexican village girl sound as if she had grown up in the land of potatoes and cabbage.

“Being in Europe opened my eyes. I felt Mexican food was so badly represented. It is so much more than tacos and burritos,” she says.

chef miriam margaritas
A classic margarita is the icebreaker for Chef Miriam’s programs. She willingly shares her recipe. Image by Tom Adkinson

Margaritas emptied, the class relocated from the living room to the dining room. Proper assembly of a cornhusk tamale was the first task. We all succeeded. While the tamales are steaming in the adjacent kitchen, attention shifted to manual labor with an ancient culinary implement – a mortar and pestle.

Participants worked in pairs – sometimes using muscles we didn’t know we had – first to create a salsa and then to make a mole by grinding peppers, garlic, onion, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and other ingredients.

Chef Miriam acknowledges that using a mortar and pestle is a bit extreme in the era of food processors, but it demonstrates authenticity and provides a connection to another way of life.

Because we used a Sharpie pen to mark our tamales, we got our own handiwork back when we sat down to dinner. We added flavor with the salsa we had made and saved some for the chili Colorado beef dish (tender beef with red peppers) that Chef Mariam cooked for hours before our arrival.

Chef Miriam then showed us glistening sea bass filets caught that day by Puerto Vallarta fishermen before she baked them. Presentation was with a white mole. Red and white wines from Baja California complemented the two protein courses.

The meal concluded with a simple dessert, bunuelos (a fried cookie made with all-purpose flour, corn flour and rice flower and then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and accented with a bit of chocolate sauce).

The evening concluded with applause and information about Chef Mariam’s new cookbook, “Mi Mexico.” We departed with an appreciation of Mexican cuisine that transcends tacos and burritos by a country village mile.

Trip-planning resources: and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on

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