The story of Mazunte is a simple one. Initially conceived with a theme influenced by Mexican street food, the original conception has never wavered.

After stopping at a local “taco place” one random Sunday in mid July 2010, while home on break from teaching English in Asia, I left agitated and pensive. Made of stale tortilla shells with cold chicken, fake cheese and bland tomatoes, the tacos were borderline offensive.

My mind began to spin. I yearned for an honest, fresh take on the cuisine so close to my heart. For the next month, visions of a legitimate taquería overwhelmed my frenzied brain. I would wake suddenly in the middle of the night, thinking about these new-fangled, unrelenting ideas. The model for what would eventually become “Mazunte” was starting to take shape.

So I set out for Mexico with a fearless objective to live, to work and to learn everything I could about the food, the history and the culture of this undeniably unique country — from salsa to Benito Juarez to Posadas.

The southern state of Oaxaca was my destination. Filled with an unforgettable mix of awesome street food, amazing markets and incredible home-style feasts, it acts as the unofficial mecca of Mexican cuisine.

I landed the first job I applied for, as an English professor with a university in a small town located in the foothills of the Sierra Sur. Within a few weeks’ time, there I was, in my new Oaxacan landlord’s kitchen, learning how to prepare enchiladas verdes and molotes with chorizo.

And so it went for the next 10 months. I ate everything I could and traveled to Chiapas, Puebla and Mexico City in search of exciting, bold flavors. I learned from “grandmothers,” friends, students and street vendors. The locals fully embraced me. They took me in, cooked for me, showed me how to navigate the markets and gave me access to ancient family recipes that date back centuries. These remarkable people taught me everything I wanted to know, without ever once asking for or expecting anything in return.

I walked away with a deeply personal menu reflecting my journey throughout the streets, markets and home kitchens of southern and central Mexico. It remains, by far, the most enlightening and coolest culinary experience of my young life.

It was, truly, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

– Josh Wamsley, December 2012

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