Why the Four Seasons, Punta Mita is one of the world’s most vegan resorts
Resort living has its perks, but you’re not guaranteed to get your money’s worth when you’re vegan. Yes, the view from your hotel room balcony is stunning, and there’s nothing better than that breathtaking moment when you first enter the beautiful lobby, but when it comes dinner, vegans are often overlooked. The five-star service of a destination resort is compromised by the extremely limited and lackluster plant options. In many resorts, vegans survive on fruits, sad salads, roasted vegetables (hold the butter) and maybe fries with a processed vegan patty (hold the aioli and brioche bread) . That being said, the bar of plant-based resort options is embarrassing, but the Four Seasons, Punta Mita doesn’t settle. Since bringing in vegan chef Leslie Durso to oversee its allergen-free and plant-based menus, the hotel has offered more than 250 vegan dishes at its on-site restaurants. We sat down with Durso to learn more about his origins as a chef and his process for developing all the mouth-watering vegan recipes worthy of a five-star hotel.
Of Bill Nye in Punta Mita
Durso’s career path is the reverse of many who move to Los Angeles. Most start out in restaurants while pursuing bigger acting opportunities; Durso, however, had “succeeded,” at least in the eyes of elementary and middle school students. Durso was chosen for the science education show Bill Nye the scientist like Leslie the lab girl. The show finally ran its final season, and instead of pursuing another role, she rolled up her sleeves and tightened her apron ties.
“Bill Nye sparked my passion for education through entertainment,” recalls Durso. “After that show ended, I decided to become a chef and inspire people to make healthier food choices. There was no vegan cooking school back then, so I traveled the world taking classes and learning from anyone who wanted to teach me.I believe and still believe that furthering your education and keeping your curiosity alive is the way to master anything.
By the time she decided to pursue a culinary career, Durso had more than a decade of plant-based eating under her belt. She stopped eating meat at the age of eight. “Call it instinct, call it an inner voice, call it what you want, I just knew as a kid I didn’t want to eat meat,” Durso says. It was difficult to make this decision as a member of a large Italian-American household, but his family eventually pulled together. She was always welcomed into the kitchen where her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother shaped her way of cooking today.
“It sounds cliché, but love is the best ingredient you can put in your food. The joy in the process is everything,” Durso says.
This joy of cooking enhanced by an ever-inquisitive spirit has opened doors for Durso. She adopted a “say yes” mentality and took every opportunity she could to practice her craft. After a few years of private chiefdom, she started looking for something on a larger scale. Five years ago, this opportunity presented itself at the Four Seasons.
“When I arrived at the Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita, I fell in love,” Durso recalls. “The service at the Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Every member of staff makes you feel like you are coming home. Every detail is thought out and every need is met. Plus, the energy in Punta Mita is so vibrant and strong. I really feel connected to nature there! The beaches are spectacular and the sunsets are unparalleled.”
It was her chance to educate a global audience about the benefits of plant-based cooking, and she ran with it.
Vegan at the Four Seasons, Punta Mita
“Since stepping aboard, we’ve built the world’s most vegan and hypoallergenic 5-star resort! exclaims Durso. When she arrived, the goal was to implement at least three vegan options in each restaurant on the property. With over 250 vegan items, Durso has far exceeded this goal. In addition to being animal-free, many of Durso’s dishes are allergen-free. She has worked extensively with FARE (Food Allergy and Research Education) and she knows how to invent enticing dishes without the nine main food allergens. At the resort, she says, the most common modification request is gluten-free, which is why many plant-based options are also gluten-free.
While Mexican cuisine is a given, the resort also offers culinary styles that span the globe. After all, they cater to an international clientele. Durso has created menus for the Four Seasons, Mediterranean, Asian and cocktail concepts at Punta Mita with dishes such as Shiitake and Tofu Goyza, vegan sushi rolls with roasted watermelon and mushroom empanadas.
Given the dizzying array of options, we asked Durso what his perfect meal day entailed.
“Oh, that’s difficult! Durso said after a pause. “I like to start my day with a Jugo Verde (made with pineapple, spinach, cucumber, celery, parsley, cactus and lime) and a bowl of Bircher Muesli or, if I feel indulgent, our vegan chilaquiles! For lunch I would go to Tamai for a zen chopped salad and wild mushroom empanadas. In the afternoon, I always recommend taking our tequila tasting course. It’s so interesting and it really made me fall in love with the shades of tequila! Dinner depends on your mood. For Asia, I’d go to Aramara for crispy cauliflower bites, roasted watermelon sushi, wok-fried miso eggplant, and red curry. If I was in the mood for Mexican I would go to Dos Catrinas for a salsa tasting with baked Tlayuda (a local style fry), corn ribs in Mexican BBQ sauce, Tinga mushroom tacos and Chile Relleno. For Mediterranean on the beach, head to Bahia for Mezze, homemade pasta and Nogada-spiced roasted cauliflower.
But what about desserts? Even in vegan omnivorous restaurants, dessert is often an afterthought. Ninety percent of the time the vegan option will be fresh fruit or fruit sorbet. These choices are good on a weekday at home, but when your dining companion swoons over a decadent cheesecake or divine creme brulee, you want to experience them too. At the Four Seasons, Punta Mita, the dessert is as important as the meal.
“Each restaurant offers vegan desserts,” Durso assures. “For something special, I’m giving you two options: walk down to our churro cart to get churros made to order and bring them to eat on the beach and enjoy while watching the sunset. [Alternatively, go] return to your room to feast on our decadent Chocolate Bar. [It’s made with] thin layers of gluten-free chocolate cake covered in chocolate avocado ganache, topped with raspberry reduction and fresh berries.
These desserts alone are enough to compel us to book a flight. Beyond this impressive assortment of vegan options, there’s plenty to do here.
“Between the three pools, two beaches, an award-winning spa, two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, 14 tennis courts, kayaking, whale watching, meditation, yoga, wellness treatments, tequila classes, local Huichol workshops , one of the best children’s programs in the world, and much more, there is literally something for everyone! » Durso confirms.
She also established a meatless Monday routine for the entire kitchen staff at the Four Seasons, Punta Mita. Durso plans to undertake more restoration projects in the future to ensure that herbal options are not unique, but the norm.