¡Ven a Comer! Culinary Festival Celebrates UTSA’S Mexican Cookbook Collection

For San Antonio chefs, a chance to peruse UTSA’s massive Mexican Cookbook Collection is like being a kid in a candy store.

Local foodies can take heart – a festival taking place Cinco de Mayo weekend is bringing the collection off library shelves and onto plates via a trio of unique culinary events. Ven a Comer will feature modern interpretations of the food and spirits from the cookbooks in a unique collaboration of chefs from San Antonio and Mexico.

The highlight of the festival is a multi-course dinner at Hotel Emma, recently named one of the world’s 40 best “food-centric” hotels, taking place on May 7. Six chefs will collaborate on the menu including Jaime Gonzalez and Jennifer Riesman from Hotel Emma, and Rico Torres and Diego Galicia of Restaurant Mixli, who were recently named two of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2017.

Joining the local chefs will be two visiting specialists from Mexico: chef Fabian Delgado of Guadalajara’s Pal Real restaurant, and mezcal expert Pedro Jiménez Gurría, who will share his knowledge of the traditional agave-based spirit at event tastings and a documentary film screening on May 6.

Proceeds from Ven a Comer will support the development and preservation of the cookbooks, one of the largest collections of its kind in the country with more than 1,800 items produced between 1789 and the present. Among the many gems in the collection are handwritten recipe books providing an intimate view of domestic life and Mexican culinary culture.

“This is kind of my secret weapon for menu development,” says Torres, who has spent hours in the John Peace Library’s Special Collections Reading Room in his quest to rescue and preserve historic recipes. “There’s value in having this collection here….I think it just adds to the fact that San Antonio is a gateway to Mexican culture.”

Ven a Comer is sponsored by Hotel Emma, the Pearl Brewery, UTSA Libraries, and the Mexican Cultural Institute, with additional support from the Consulate of Mexico in San Antonio and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Festival Events

Friday, May 5

VIVA MEZCAL Documentary Film Screening & Mezcal Tasting

7 – 9 p.m. | Mexican Cultural Institute, Hemisfair Park

Join director and mezcalero Pedro Jiménez Gurría for a viewing of this documentary on this agave-based spirit from Mexico and the future of the mezcal industry. Several varietals of mezcal will be available for tasting. Free and open to the public.

More information

Saturday, May 6

Mexican Street Food from the Culinary Institute of America

10 a.m. – 1 p.m.  |  Farmers Market – Pearl Brewery

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the CIA will serve Mexican street food at the Latin Outdoor Kitchen in the Pearl plaza.

More information

Sunday, May 7

Ven a Comer - An evening of Fine Food and Spirits

5:30 p.m.  |  Hotel Emma

A unique evening featuring a multi-course dinner with dishes inspired by UTSA’s Mexican Cookbook Collection. Proceeds from the event will support the preservation and development of the collection.

More information

More to Explore

Video: Archival Inspirations

See Chef Rico Torres find ideas for menus at his restaurant using the Mexican Cookbook Collection

UTSA’s Mexican Cookbook Collection

View digitizations of some of the collection’s most unique items, including handwritten manuscripts and an 18th century cookbook of Latin American recipes including dishes such as postre de calabacitas de negro, gaspacho, zopa de naranja, and potaje escondido.