David Sterling’s “Yucatán: Recipes From a Culinary Expedition” was honored as the cookbook of the year and best international cookbook Friday night at the prestigious James Beard awards at the Chelsea Piers in New York City.
Sterling, known locally as the chef behind Mérida’s Los Dos cooking school and catering company, was in New York to receive the prize in person.
The thick, lavishly illustrated book pulls together the various ethnic and cultural strands that make up Yucatecan cooking — influences from France, Spain and Portugal, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.
“I was cautiously optimistic about winning the award for the best cookbook in the International category, but completely stunned that the book won Best Cookbook of the Year, too,” Sterling told Yucatán Expat Life. “I never saw that one coming; in fact, I wasn’t even aware of the category!”
The win is more than a personal victory for a single author. It represents yet another means to educate the world about the region.
“Needless to say these are huge honors for me – and I believe it also casts a great light on Yucatán,” said Sterling. “I am so proud to have played a role in introducing this great region of Mexico to so many people.”
The book is the result of his 10 years of research performed in collaboration with experts in the Mayan language, customs, agriculture and ethnobotany, the scientific study of the relationships that exist between peoples and plants. The author traveled to rustic kitchens in tiny pueblos and in urban cocinas económicas, and documents his journeys vividly.
Sterling’s particular goal while writing was to preserve the region’s unique culinary methodologies, rural agricultural practices, recipes and ingredients that are known only to older generations, in hopes of rescuing them from extinction.
This is the second big win for the book. “Yucatán” had earlier won the first $10,000 Art of Eating prize for the cookbook of the year.
Sterling was in good company. Prolific food writer Barbara Kafka was added to the foundation’s cookbook hall of fame. Kafka’s work has spanned generations and trends, from “Microwave Gourmet” in the ’80s to her 2011 ode to gluten-free cooking, “The Intolerant Gourmet.”
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Associated Press