chef miguel guerreroNow and then the world opens to you. This evening I discovered that when San Diego’s Mingei museum, usually a haven for the Asian arts, hosted Sabor e Imagen – Taste and Image of the Baja region.

If you’re traveling in a strange city, you might stumble on a street fair, or follow a crowd into a theatrical premier, a movie, a gallery opening. In your home town, you might open the paper to a small article about a neighboring region being honored locally, a restaurant opening, a college symposium, symphony or new park or some such.

It begins with noticing. The ahh-hah moment when you register interest, then desire forms and grows through to re-working your schedule to do something new and different – because it opened to you, an invitation of sorts, a choice point.

So I found myself waiting to enter and discover as part of a small crowd outside the Mingei on a rainy evening. A film premier was promised – it turned out to be 15 minutes of a documentary, Baja Expedition, following “chef Miguel Ángel Guerrero across 1,700 miles on a motorcycle, from the northern tip of Mexico, throughout the Baja, to the southern end of the Peninsula.”

Once inside we were invited to sample small plates of his regional cuisine, Baja wineries offered tastes and dignitaries mingled. Guerrero’s story unfolded once our attention was drawn to the theater space adjacent to the entry hall.

Guerrero grew up in Baja with a strong sense of heritage. A fourth-generation Tijuana resident, he grew up on a ranch and started hunting and fishing at age 5. His father gave him freedom and encouragement to explore and “to always respect nature.” That respect inspired his “trip of a lifetime” with his teenage son and five or six friends. Professional photographer and visual artist Leon Felipe Charoy documented each step, dive and ride (his pictures fill one gallery). Together they spent 24 days and cooked over 120 meals while hunting, diving, fishing and hiking between Tijuana and Cabo, at the tip of Baja.

In the film, Guerrero takes an annual gastronomy journey, catching what he needs for the evening meal and building recipes with his friends from their catch. He is interested in documenting the changes throughout Baja and supporting sustainability through his characteristic BajaMed Cuisine.

The pre-film ceremony wound on with mayor-elect of San Diego, Bob Filner, speaking about uniting our two sides of the border through food and art. Mexican dignitaries nodded and shared his enthusiasm, but the night belonged to the Mingei director, Rob Sidner, and his staff, for what I imagine has been many months of planning and hard work pulling together so many elements for a single event.

Chef Guerrero remained the star, celebrating the film with his friends and family, fellow chefs from both sides of the border and a crowd delighted with his unique vision and delicious talents. If you venture south of the border check out his restaurants: El Taller, La Querencia, and Almazara, the chef In a couple of months the chef will open a new restaurant called El Taller on 5th.

Bueno, Mingei! Mucho gusto, Guerrero and congratulations on producing Baja Expedition !

Elaine J. Masters

Travel writer, and co-host of the San Diego chapter of Travel Massive.

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