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David Sterling’s final opus is out, and it’s as epic as you’d expect

'Mercados' explores all of Mexico and shares vivid images, enticing recipes

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our top headlines will appear in your inbox each Monday and Thursday.
Photos: University of Texas Press

David Sterling’s followup to “Yucatán” came out today, two and-a-half years after the Merida cooking school owner and chef’s untimely passing.

“Mercados” could be a lovely coffee table book, if the coffee table is sturdy enough. It would be a shame, however, to consider it purely decorative.

Part travelogue, part cookbook, “Mercados” is just about as massive, thorough and colorful as his previous tome. But Sterling’s final opus explores all of Mexico, ranging well past the Peninsula.

“Mercados” is a tour of Mexico’s most colorful destinations — its markets — led by a guide whose passion for Mexican food attracted followers from around the globe.

The book was completed with the help of Mario Canul, the chef who also has taken the helm at Sterling’s Los Dos cooking school.

Known as “David’s faithful right-hand man,” Canul had worked side by side with Sterling and the school’s crew for 12 years, and “was an integral part not only of the team, but also of the (previous) award-winning cookbook,” the Los Dos website states.

Just as Sterling’s James Beard-winning “Yucatán” earned him praise for his “meticulously researched knowledge,” according to Saveur magazine, Mercados invites readers to learn about local ingredients, meet vendors and cooks, and taste dishes that reflect Mexico’s distinctive regional cuisine.

Among the 100-plus recipes in the book are unique versions of Oaxaca’s legendary moles and Michoacan’s carnitas, as well as little-known specialties such as the charcuterie of Chiapas, the wild anise of Pátzcuaro, and the seafood soups of Veracruz.

Sumptuous color photographs depict the enormous 40-acre, 10,000-merchant Central de Abastos in Oaxaca as well as tiny tianguises in Tabasco.

A native of Oklahoma, Sterling was an art director in New York City for 25 years, but after the 9/11 attacks, he and partner Keith Heitke relocated to Merida. There he started the first culinary institute in Mexico devoted exclusively to Yucatecan cooking.

Sterling helped bring worldwide attention to Yucatan when he was featured on Rick Bayless’ and Martha Stewart’s respective television programs. His work was also featured widely in print media, including the New Yorker and Travel & Leisure.

The cloth-bound book, published by University of Texas Press, is 576 pages and sells for US$60, sometimes less, on Amazon.com.

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