Mayan chef from Chumaye will represent Latin America in Milan competition

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Elio Xicum Cobá, a Yucatecan from Chumayel, will represent Mexico in the Saint Pellegrino Young Chefs competition in the Fine Dining Lovers category. 

Much of Elio’s memories revolve around the milpa. He’s worked with colorful variations of corn his whole life and, eventually, this knowledge got him a ticket to Italy.

Elio Xicum Cobá will represent Latin America in Milan, on Oct. 30. Photo: Courtesy

“I tell stories with my dishes,” says Elio. “I tell the story of Doña María who got up every day at 5 a.m. to sell panuchos and pay for her son’s studies. That son is me and she is one of the many women who work hard to get around in Mexico.” 

Elio’s father wanted him to be a mechanical engineer and his mother imagined him as a doctor. He chose cooking at the Universidad de Oriente. 

The Mexicans who participated in the semifinal of the Saint Pellegrino Young Chef Awards. Photo: Courtesy

“I never looked for the kitchen, the kitchen looked for me. I wanted to be a lawyer,” Elio recalls.

His mother’s work left its mark on him and his favorite dish is the salbut. Of Mexican cuisine, mole is his favorite. However, he will bring a tamale to Milan. It is made of turkey gizzards with black recado sauce and Ixil onions cooked under ashes. 

It’s called “nohoch ná,” which means great mother, and the concept embodies everything he believes in: that cooking is maternal, and gives life.

Elio Xicum’s dishes are inspired by his Mayan origins, and his connection with the milpa. Photo: Courtesy

He was elected among the semifinalists as one of the 135 best young chefs in Latin America. In September 2019, in Lima, Peru he passed on to the final, which was postponed for a year due to the pandemic. 

The young man was chosen as the Latin American representative in his category, which will be held in Milan, on Oct. 30. He will face 48 chefs from all over the world.

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