From the mountains to the sea: the journey of Dancing Chef Haley

dancing chef HaleyI have always thought of life as an adventure, so when I decided I wanted to do something outside of what most 19 year old college students do, everyone that knows me was not surprised. This summer I decided I wanted to do something different, so I moved to the island of Cozumel Mexico and become a Dancing Chef for the famous Salsa and Salsa tour (aka best summer job ever).

I was born in the mountainous state of Colorado. I get my adventurous side from my family, because when I was in 2nd grade, seeking adventure, my family decided to move to the sunny island of Cozumel, Mexico. I attended a bilingual school, so I am fluent in both English and Spanish. I lived in various parts of Mexico for 10 years including Cancun & Mazatlán. Growing up in a different culture gave me an exclusive view on life and I am always eager to meet people from all over the world and hear their unique stories. I recently moved back to the United States for college. I am currently double majoring in Restaurant, Food, Beverage Management and International Hotel & Tourism Management.

dancing chef haley with guestWhen I joined the Salsa & Salsa team this summer in Cozumel as a dancing chef, I didn’t know what to expect. I had done my research on the show and the company before moving down to the island for 3 months, and from what I could tell, everyone who had ever attended the Salsa & Salsa show had loved it so I was excited. This job was not only a fun summer job where I could live the island life in paradise, but also a learning experience. Customer service is a huge part of the hospitality industry and working for Salsa and Salsa, I got the hands on experience that cannot be taught at school.

My first day meeting my fellow coworkers, I realized I was walking into a family. From day one, they made me feel like I belonged. How many people can say that after their first day in a new job, in a different country and speaking a foreign language?! I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I realized working as a dancing chef that you need to treat every day as a new experience because you never know who will walk through your door.

Working for Salsa & Salsa this summer not only taught me the important things in the hospitality industry, such as: working on my personal skills with clients, learning how to do inventory, helping out in the kitchen and seeing what it actually takes to run Salsa& Salsa on a business standpoint, but also fun things like:

  1. I can’t Salsa dance to save my life, but I will have a blast trying and making up new moves of my own with my awesome dance partners.
  2. People can get very creative and involve a lot of “Styling”, as us dancing chefs like to call it when it comes to salsa dancing
  3. You truly can change anyone’s day with a smile (and maybe a couple margaritas 😉 )
  4. Tomatillos are actually from the goose berry family
  5. I will never go back to the old red roma tomato, white onion guacamole ever again

dancing chef haley with group photoThis summer has definitely been an amazing experience not only as being a stepping stone in my career and future, but learning a lot about myself as well. You never know what might happen, and even though you might be given the same show day in and day out, every day and every person walking through our gate is different, and I love the diversity. “The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” – Oprah Winfrey

Con mucho mucho amor,

Dancing Chef at heart, Haley Saul.

LELA hits the road

Salsa LelaLELA (Lead, Encourage, Live and Act), the symbol of the altruistic side of the Salsa and Salsa tour, has recently turned 3 years old. She started a a little piggy bank at Salsa and Salsa in Mazatlan in 2010, filled with hope, positivity and love for the community. Since then LELA has collected over $30,000 USD for many organisations and charities world-wide and continues to touch the hearts of many guests who visit Salsa and Salsa in Mazatlan, Cozumel and Cabo San Lucas.

LELASalsa and Salsa also takes care of the communities, with charitable giving, which is awesome!” – Jonathan S.   South Carolina

We also gave to L.E.L.A. and paid it forward to help those in need!” – Heidi Bradshaw

They also have a program of donation to deserving organizations.” – Travelsalotindiana

 It was the perfect excursion: great staff and family-friendly – plus Salsa and Salsa even supports various charities.”  – Glenn F, Texas

Many guests who joined Salsa and Salsa and donated to LELA themselves, suggested their favorite charity to the Dancing Chefs. The simplicity of paying it forward has been the driving force behind this initiative. LELA has supported small and big charities alike.

Hands On NashvilleCozumel humane societyBack2Back

LELA has grown up and the time has come for her to discover the world. The Dancing Chefs are very proud and excited to announce that LELA will hoof out to discover unknown trails. During the last 3 years charities were embraced by LELA at 3 locations in Mexico, but now LELA will visit and help out your charity with the most amazing FUN-raiser you can think of. Yes… it’s true: the Dancing Chefs will hit the road and visit your location to with the #1 Tour from Mexico.

Do you need to spice up your charity dinner or event? The Dancing Chefs will teach everybody how fun cooking and dancing can be…. Salsa style! For more information and availability, send an email to salsaandsalsausa@gmail.com.

And finally…. one last big OLÉ!!!!!!!    🙂

Run LELA run…..

In the wake of the Ironman in Cozumel and the Maraton Pacifico in Mazatlan, Dancing Chef Stephanie shares her story about being healthy. We are very proud to present our $890 USD donation to Fred’s Team that was collected by LELA in October 2012.

Dancing Chef Stephanie’s road to the top

On January 8th of this year I took a decision that took me 22 years to take… that’s kind of hard to believe isn’t it??

I was born as a healthy baby with normal weight, but as a toddler I developed asthmatic bronchitis, this lead to several complications that took me in and out of the hospital several times as a kid. The doctor’s recommendation was no running or any kind of activity that will give me a good work out, plus lots of medicine that included cortisone. Those two of course plus the pampering of my parents took me straight to being an obese child.

During my adolescence I wanted to drop weight and look good, I tried several different diets but again very little to no exercise. I dropped some weight but never got to my ideal size. I don’t want to sound like weight was all it was in my mind, but as a child and adolescence bullying affects you psychologically a lot and makes your defects stand out every day. When I got out of high school I focused more in my schooling and let go on my strict diet which made me gain back the weight I lost.

This year I decided it was enough; I was not going to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something I needed to do for myself. I signed up at the gym without knowing what to expect and committed with myself to do cardio for 1hr a day, at least 5 days a week, which I did for the first 3 months. Those months were rough, I felt like my lungs were too weak, my heart was going to pop out my chest and my legs wouldn’t stop hurting ever. It was definitely a struggle every day to get out of my bed and go do it. I was losing some weight but my skin wasn’t going back to its place properly so after researching I realized I had to get a personal trainer to start doing weights. Well that was scary because all my life I thought that if I did that I was going to look bulky and my body will turn manlish. It happens to be totally opposite if you have a professional by your side that knows your problematic areas that you really want to work out and make firm, you will focus on that.

By April I started personalized routines with my trainer who is amazing. I’m not going to lie they were a totally different challenge from my regular everyday cardio, but I was focussed on what I had to get done and always felt so proud to go from the person on the couch watching TV to this very active person. I was feeling better, I had more energy and I noticed I wasn’t getting sick every month like I used to. About every month I had a cold, cough, allergies or flu, suddenly I was off any kind of medication.

In summer time I started having knee problems which I have always had, but I guess the regular work out made it more noticeable. I went to the doctor to check on that and his first recommendation was no more working out. “But why???”  especially if I was feeling so well.  He gave me medication and pulled me out of the gym for a week, which made me feel awful mentally and physically. I had a goal that I was managing to keep and again my health was going to stop me. Well, I called my trainer and she said she has had several clients that have been injured somehow and they just work around it, making sure that you don’t overdo that part of your body. So I got back to the gym and I haven’t stop ever since. I try to do 7 days a week but if I do 5 I feel like I’m still following what I was committed to.

My lungs are stronger, my attitude is more positive and I feel so proud of myself. If you are going to work out I would recommend you to get a personal trainer that will guide you through very good routines as well as take care of you while training. Just so you know I have not gotten to my goal weight but I’m sure pushing it every day to make that happen, I want stay healthy for myself and my loved ones.

Olé!!!

Dancing Chef Stephanie

The Sacred Mayan Journey

The Maya civilization blossomed in the southeast  of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and parts of Honduras and El Salvador between the years 250–900 AD. The Maya were, in many experts’ view the most brilliant civilization of pre-Hispanic America. Their knowledge of astronomy, mathematics and astrology, amaze scholars until this day. The Mayan heritage can be appreciated in the many temples complexes in the Yucatan peninsula.

 

Religion was present in every facet of Maya life. They believed in predestination and followed a complex astrology. To win the gods’ favours they carried out elaborate rituals involving dances, feasts and sacrifices. One of the most mystical and beautiful rituals that was carried out was no doubt the sacred journey from Xcaret to Cozumel island. The Mayan word for Cozumel is Cuzamil which means ‘Island of the Swallows’.

 

For the Maya the sea was a two-faced authority. On the one hand the sea represented food and commerce. On the other hand the sea was seen as a dangerous place and an entrance to the underworld ‘Xibalbá’.  The sacred journey was performed to make requests to the goddess Ixchel (goddess of midwifery and medicine). In the early 16th century, Maya women seeking to ensure a fruitful marriage would travel to the sanctuary of Ixchel on the island of Cozumel, the most important place of pilgrimage after Chichén Itza. With the arrival of the Spanish this rite disappeared.

 

The journey today……

This ritual of Mayan navigation was revived in the past decade, with a strict adherence to historical clothing, rituals, dance, music, gifts and canoes. This unique adventure and unrivalled experience takes place in May and is open to the general public. Currently there are over three hundred participants in the Sacred Journey every year. Find out more about this topic on www.travesiasagradamaya.com.mx

Being born and raised on the island of Cozumel I do feel like it is a very sacred place, which warms your heart and if you leave, it always calls you back. I am happy to see that so many people from across the globe get to see this beautiful place, like our dancing chefs that visit us everyday. This is why I wanted to share with you the history of the place that I very proudly call ‘home’.

Love,

Dancing Chef Amanda.

 

P.S And because I love food, I also wanted to share with you a quick vegetarian recipe that’s perfect for a rushed day.

 

 

 

Three-layer Quesadilla (1 portion)

Ingredients:

2 flour or corn tortillas

Grated cheese of your preference

Red Salsa

Sour cream

Preparation:

Place grated cheese on top of 1 tortilla and cover with the other tortilla.

Heat a skillet (without oil or butter) or ‘comal’ and place the quesadilla inside. Heat on both sides until the cheese has melted.

Pour homemade red salsa on top and a spoon full of sour cream.

And all ready to go! Quick, easy and delicious!!!! OLE!!!!!!!!

A day at the Cozumel Humane Society

The Humane Society of Cozumel is probably one of the most overlooked organizations on the entire island. This is strange to me because it seems to have the most impact, especially in a place where taking in and caring for animals is a job that not many will do. At least that was the impression I got when I visited them myself. The building itself doesn’t look like much. It’s hot, mosquitoes bite you in packs of 10 and 20 and the enclosures are well-maintained even though they aren’t the highest quality. However, the animals are very happy there. This is because the people that run this place and take care of the animals do such an amazing job with so little. So, when I went down there during the summer to see this place for myself, I was pleasantly surprised.

I went there to become a foster parent for a puppy, and when they brought him out, my heart melted. He was so cute. His name is Corcho, and he seemed just as happy to see me as I was to see him. That is, until it was bath time. He clawed and shook and tried everything he could to run away, but he was too little. It was so adorable. When the time came to take him home, everybody seemed almost sad to see him go, which was certainly understandable.

 

The next couple weeks with Corcho were interesting to say the least. Although he was the most adorable little puppy, he was in fact a puppy. So, naturally, he was nowhere near housetrained. I tried to be a strict parent with him. But he would look up at me with that puppy dog face, and my heart would just melt all over again. He really was the nicest, sweetest dog. Dancing Chef Amanda fell in love with the little guy right away and it took no time for her to realize he was going to be the perfect addition to her family.

 

In the very short time that I took care of Corcho, we really bonded. So when it was time for him to go to his new home, it was really hard on me. But as sad as I was, I was even happier knowing that Corcho had found a good home where he could be with a parent that would love him as much as I did. This made me realize how hard it must be for the staff of the Humane Society. It was hard enough for me to say goodbye once. I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye over and over again as I watch countless animals that I cared for go off to their new homes. It must be very emotional for them. But at the same time, I could only imagine how much better they feel knowing that they’re sending these animals to a loving home when they were cast aside to the streets. I think, for me, the joy I would get from knowing that I’ve saved so many lives would be well worth the sadness that comes with watching them go.

 

All the Dancing Chefs are big animal lovers and it wasn’t hard for us to decide to donate to the Humane Society of Cozumel in March. I was extremely lucky to be on the island to give the donations along with Dancing Chef Amanda; collected by our Donating Pig LELA, who managed to get to the grand total of $1,751.00 USD.

 

They are changing the lives of so many animals, not only giving them great families but educating the locals about animal rights, as well are neutering and spaying.

So, next time you’re in Mexico and see an animal on the streets, just think about how many animals don’t have to live that way, thanks to the incredible work of the staff at the Humane Societyof Cozumel. When you think of getting a new pet, ADOPT!!! Don’t buy. You can visit the Humane Society at:  http://humanecozumel.org/ to make a donation or adopt an animal from Cozumel.

Dancing Chef Stephanie.

Easter in Mexico

What comes to mind when you think of Easter….. Bunnies, egg hunts and blooming flowers? In Mexico we don’t celebrate Easter, but Semana Santa which is the week before Easter. It is a national holiday and it’s also the time that many Mexicans take time off to go to the beach. Big cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey become ghost towns in these days and in beach destinations cash machines run out of money and supermarket shelves are emptied. I love the sun and sea of Cozumel, Cabo and Mazatlan, but when there are so many people on the beach I prefer to experience Easter in a different way!

Mexico is one of the most catholic countries in Latin America. It’s present in everyday life: people make the sign of a cross when passing in front of a church or use saint’s images for protection. Semana Santa is one of the most important celebrations, with processions and re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus.


On Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) many Catholics visit their local church, buy a palm leaf that’s offered by the many vendors outside the church. Then they attend mass to receive a blessing on the palm. The blessed palm leaf will keep the holder safe and is usually located behind the front door of the house or on the rear-view mirror in the car. The design of the palm leafs differ per region and is a wonderful example of Mexican handcraft.

The re-enactments of Jesus’ crucifixion are much more than a mere theatre play. The involved actors are devout Catholics and express their deep religious feelings through the role they are playing. In some cities the actors that play Jesus, carry crosses that weigh up to 80 kilo, are literally crucified and undergo extreme pain. Thousands of people attend the Via Crucis throughout the country.

One of the more solemn activities of Holy Week is the Procesion del Silencio (Procession of Silence). It takes place on the Friday night before Easter and could be considered a funeral procession. All participants wear special clothing or hoods to renounce selfishness and arrogance. The image of a crucified or deceased Jesus heads the march, behind him the Virgen Marie dressed in mourning cloths. This Virgen is also called ‘Virgen Dolorosa’. All images of Jesus and the Virgen Marie that participate, are carried by the members of the church the image belongs to. During the procession you can hear only the sound of drums, that mark the pace. It’s kind of eery to be a part of the Procesion del Silencio: apart of the absence of sound, all street light are turned off and eventually you start to feel the sadness too.

Now enough about celebrations…. let’s about my favorite topic: FOOD! In the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter (Lent)  Catholics are not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. Mexican catholics have created a special vegetarian dish for this time of year. It’s called Capirotada and could be considered a bread pudding with syrup. Each region in Mexico has its own version of this traditional Lent dish. This recipe from the north of Mexico is special, because it has layers of cheese.

Capirotada – Mexican bread pudding with syrup

Ingredients

20-25 slices of baguette (1-2 days old)

5 ounces (150 grams) of butter

9 ounces (250 grams) of grated queso Chihuahua or aged cheese

7 ounces (200 grams) of raisins

7 ounces (200 grams) of unsalted peanuts

Syrup

5 ounces(150 grams) piloncillo or mascabado sugar

3 cups (750 ml) of water

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 cup (250 ml) milk

Preparation

  • First prepare the syrup: boil the sugar, water, cinnamon and cloves in a sauce pan with a thick bottom while stirring into liquid syrup. Remove the pan from the fire and stir in the milk.
  • Toast the slices of bread and cover with butter.
  • Preheat the oven at 390ºF(200ºC). Use a deep casserole (cazuela) for this dish. Dip the slices of bread into the syrup until making one layer. Spread part of the cheese, raisins and peanuts on tip and cover with another layer of bread dipped in syrup. Continue until all the ingredients are finished.
  • Strain the leftover of the syrup and pour over the pudding. Cover with aluminium foil and bake the pudding for about 20 minutes. Check from time to time by lifting the foil and flattening the pudding with a spoon. Lower the heat to 300ºF(150ºC) and bake for another 30 minutes. Serve this pudding lukewarm.

SERVES 6 PEOPLES

Buen Provecho!!!!!

Dancing Chef Maaike

Lela embraces the children of HOPE Landing, Arkansas

Children are the most honest and inquisitive creatures walking the earth . They embrace life with such candor and passion, that we adults could often learn from them.

Last month a guest from Salsa and Salsa Cozumel contacted us about LELA. She suggested that LELA should support her favorite charity HOPE Landing.  HOPE Landing, in South Arkansas, is bringing HOPE and PURPOSE to the lives of children with disabilities by helping them achieve their potential.   

The great thing about HOPE Landing is that 5 women stepped up and said whether Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance pays or not, if the children need it to progress, we need to do our best to provide it.  HOPE Landing provides many non-traditional but proven effective therapies for children:  equine therapy, aquatic therapy, therapy through massage, therapy through drama, summer camp, educational tutoring and many others that can more fully be comprehended by visiting their website www.hopelanding.com. These services are provided regardless of a parent’s ability to pay…..many times at HOPE Landing’s expense.  Of course traditional therapy is provided also. 

The concept of HOPE Landing touched the hearts of all the Dancing Chefs and we decided to help spread the word. We’re convinced that in this way HOPE Landing can connect with other people that understand how important each and every person is and that we all need a little help sometimes.  During the month of September LELA collected $367USD, which will be used in all the different therapies at the facility.

‘I may not speak but I have much to say.’ – Angelman Syndrome Foundation

After a couple of months of summer heat, we get back  in touch with all you Dancing Chefs to report on the LELA cause for July 2011. A close friend asked us to support the Angelman Syndrome Foundation (www.angelman.org), which we gladly agreed to. We want to thank all the Dancing Chefs in Cozumel, Cabo and Mazatlan who helped us collect a total of $435USD!

Angelman Syndrome (AS) is a neuro-genetic disorder that occurs in 1 in 15,000 live births. AS is often misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy or autism. Characteristics of AS include; developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures, and walking and balance disorders. Individuals with Angelman Syndrome will require life-long care.

It fills our hearts with pride that all your bills and coins go to a wonderful cause. The Development Director of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, Eloise Crabb sent us an email to especially thank you:

”This is just tremendous! Thank you so much for choosing us as your cause to support in July. How wonderful and we are most appreciative to you. 
 Again, thank you very much.”
 


 

The coming days we will open up LELA at our 3 locations, to see what she has collected for August’s cause: the Cabo Humane Society.

Hasta pronto!!!!

Dancing Chef Maaike

Dancing Chefs reach out to Tuscaloosa, Alabama

On April 27th a large violent tornado came through Tuscaloosa, destroying many homes and companies. In the hours after the storm, many DCH employees who were not on duty, even some affected by the storm, reported to DCH Regional Medical Center to respond to the more than 900 people being treated. Over 200 employees suffered losses too and still didn’t hesitate to help out others.

The Dancing Chefs decided that these care-givers should receive support for their selfless deeds. And there was a big response from the guests of Salsa and Salsa in Mazatlan, Cozumel and Cabo San Lucas. LELA the Donating Pig collected $640USD in total during the month of May, which was deposited to the M*A*S*H* Fund for DCH Health System employees.

Every one of you who contributed to this cause, should feel very proud of themselves. With your donation you joined the DCH family in this time of need and helped them pull together. With this video all the employees who were affected thank you for your help.
http://youtu.be/vd5VWSX3Gmc

The end of June is coming closer and shortly we will be able to announce how much donations we’ve collected for this month. LELA’s little legs have brought her to Joplin, Missouri to help out the Humane Society to give shelter to pets who were lost in the tornado. All the Dancing Chefs are big animal lovers, so this cause lies close to our hearts. Stay tuned for our next blog post.

Olé!!!!

Dancing Chef Maaike

Lela is held back, but finally comes through

As most of you already know, Lela II was born in Cozumel back in December 2010. Her first mission was ambitious, but we wanted to come in with a bang! For the months of December, January and February, Lela collected donations for a Blood Bank on the island of Cozumel– her new hometown.

Guests from Mazatlan,Cozumel and our new location Los Cabos rallied together to raise a tremendous $3117USD for all three months!

Our goal was to get through all the red tape – opening a blood bank was a much more ambitious task than expected, and we did everything in our power to achieve this goal. After months of meetings, negotiations, arguments with government officials and more, our Blood Bank proposal was rejected by the state of Quintana Roo and we had to abandon the idea of opening a Blood Bank.

We pondered, and ummmed, and ahhhed and wondered what to do…then it hit us – let’s sit down with Red Cross Cozumel and see where Lela’s donation could be best put to work! So, after looking at their big picture, S

alsa and Salsa, along with Lela, Lela II and Lela III (hehehe) decided your donations would have to SAVE LIVES!

As it would have done with the Blood Bank, your donations went towards the purchase to two necessary pieces of equipment for the volunteer work of the Red Cross in Cozumel. You’ll be proud to know your donation went t

o

wards an EKG machine and a defibrillator. Both machines will be used in the 5 ambulances which Red Cross has on the island. The defibrillator has already save a man’s life and both machines will help hundreds of people more!

The Red Cross in Mexico runs solely on donations, with no government support. When we approached the Director for Red Cross Cozumel, Mr Dagoberto, with our idea, he thanked us with a hug which I can only describe as being the warmest, most appreciative hug I have ever experienced in my life. The machines have arrived to Cozumel, and Red Cross wants to thank each and every one of you,  thanks to your kind and generous help – you’ve done something that will truly make a difference to this island – and it is something that will last forever.

Thank you one and all – and we look forward to hearing from you.

Dancing Chef – Cozumel

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