I’ve had the most incredible, almost full week, in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. A fantastic family vacation, celebrating a milestone birthday. Such a pleasure to be part of this special event, spending time with family and relaxing, not to mention enjoying our own private chef offering his unique and regional take on familiar dishes.

Lounging by the pool each day, soaking up the sun while catching up with the ever fast-moving lives of loved ones, I found myself sneaking into the kitchen to watch Chef Bernardo and asking him questions. He cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for us almost every day. We enjoyed his tacos so much, we asked to have them again. The tacos included surprisingly flavorful marinated chicken, tender beef and chorizo. We enjoyed the chorizo very much, even after finding out it was turkey! Meals included multiple ceviches, grilled white fish, seared tuna with tomato marmalade, breakfast burritos and at every meal, a very hot green salsa. This salsa was unbelievable, it burned our mouths, our throats and made our eyes water. WE COULD NOT GET ENOUGH.

Guesses included jalapeno and pablano. No, it was habanero (100,000-350,000 on the Scoville Scale, which is the measurement of spicy heat in chili peppers and other spicy foods). “Chef Bernardo,” I asked, “What makes this so amazing?” His response: “Simple, few ingredients, the best, yes?” I agreed. I asked for the recipe. “Roast the habaneros, chop, salt and pepper and white vinegar.” He shrugged. “To make creamy, fry the chilis.”

So, with all this, I will be posting my take on the dishes of Chef Bernardo with Villa Aqua in Playa Del Carmen, over the next several weeks. Stay tuned!