FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Roma Maxwell
Director of Public Relations
Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort & Spa
NEW CULINARY TEAM JOINS “LA COCINA QUE CANTA”--
THE CULINARY CENTER AT RANCHO LA PUERTA
Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, February, 2007: As the roof beams rise for the new Culinary Center at
Rancho La Puerta, the legendary fitness resort, spa, and learning center has announced several key
members of its culinary team.
The Center’s new Director is Antonia Allegra, a well-known culinary coach from St. Helena in
California’s Napa Valley. Toni is a prolific wine, food and travel writer who was also a key member of the
“launch teams” for the School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards, for the Culinary Institute of
America at Greystone, and for the Napa Valley Culinary Alliance. A resident of St. Helena, California, Ms.
Allegra has long directed the Symposium for Professional Food Writers as well as the Symposium for
Professional Wine Writers. Toni has authored Napa Valley: The Ultimate Winery Guide and other popular
books on Napa Valley wine country. She has been founding editor of three wine country magazines and
was food editor of the San Diego Tribune. She is co-founder of C4: Culinary Coaches and Consultants
Collaborative. Early in her career, Toni directed her own cooking school in San Diego for eight years. A
leader (as well as a creative maverick) in the culinary world, Toni served on the Board of Directors of the
International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) 1991-1998, and as president from 1997-1998.
She is a member of the San Francisco Professional Food Society (SFPFS), Les Dames d’Escoffier (LDEI)
as president, and the International Coach Federation (ICF). She is also a Certified Culinary Professional
La Cocina Que Canta’s new lead Teaching Chef is Jesús González. Jesús was a member of the culinary
team at the Golden Door for 14 years, working side by side with famed spa chef Michel Stroot. He joined
the culinary team at Rancho La Puerta as creative chef in 2004 where, along with Founder Deborah
Szekely, he completely revised the spa menu. The resort’s organic, modified-vegetarian menu (which also
features fresh seafood) has been winning new accolades from guests and food writers since his arrival. An
experienced culinary teacher, his hands-on classes are a hit with guests every week.
The Culinary Center’s new Chef Emeritus is Michel Stroot, recently retired from his legendary career as
Executive Chef at the Golden Door in Escondido, California. Michel is the first spa chef ever nominated for
a James Beard Foundation Award, and he brings a European artistry and classically trained sensibility to
California/Mediterranean/Mexican cuisine. The author of The Golden Door Cookbook and The Golden
Door Cooks Light & Easy; Delicious Recipes from America’s Premier Spa, his kitchen was oft-praised by
some of the world’s most distinguished food and restaurant critics such as the New York Times, the Los
Angeles Times, Gourmet, and Vogue.
The school’s Spanish name, “La Cocina Que Canta” (The Kitchen That Sings), honors its Mexican
heritage as well as the birdsongs that will soon drift through its courtyards. Masons have begun building a
generous, 4,500-square-foot layout comprising a large hands-on classroom/kitchen, cookbook library, and
culinary gift shop--all set in the heart of the spa’s famous 6-acre organic farm “Tres Estrellas” (Three
Stars), where fruits, herbs, and vegetables thrive beneath a mountain still held sacred by native North
La Cocina Que Canta opens in August 2007. In the classroom/kitchen looking out on patios and vistas
enlivened by tinkling cantera-stone fountains, and billows of brilliant geraniums and wisteria blossoms
dancing in the breezes, guests will soon enjoy a series of hands-on classes offered twice a day, two and a
half hours each, four times a week. The option of purchasing a four day package of four hands-on classes
and one cooking demonstration as well as signing up for individual classes will be offered.
The essential simplicity and joy of using fresh, organic ingredients in inspiring ways sets the table for the
school’s curriculum. Guests will delight in making the connection between their new-found cooking skills
from La Cocina Que Canta, and their heightened understanding of mind/body/spirit fitness from the rest of
their visit to the spa. The school also plans to host one-day programs for San Diego and Tijuana residents in
search of the secrets behind a longer, healthier life.
“Our Cooking School is borne of my guests’ tremendous interest in our healthful cuisine, and their new
experience with freshness, seasonality, and our chefs’ flavor-enhancing culinary magic,” says Deborah
Szekely. “I’m besieged each day by guests who want to know how to make their food at home reflect all
that they’ve learned at the Ranch. As many as half of our guests already attend our current once-a-week
Rancho La Puerta’s culinary learning traditions go back 67 years. Guests in the early days spent an
obligatory day or two helping in the kitchen. Vegetables needed preparation. Sprouted grains were ground
for the spa’s special crackers that were baked in the sun. Deborah Szekely was there throughout the many
decades, often teaching classes herself in how to “de-calorize” favorite recipes from home.
Today, Deborah and her daughter Sarah Livia Brightwood -- two true spa visionaries -- have drawn from
their knowledge of the great hacienda kitchens of Mexico and Latin America to create La Cocina. Recent
trips to World Heritage Sites in Oaxaca, Michoacan, and the famous village of San Miguel de Allende
north of Mexico City, have inspired the school’s pastiche of sun-washed walls, hand-hewn open-beam
ceilings, ancient doors, hand-painted tiles, and well-fitted stonework. Sarah Livia has designed the building
and grounds so that windows and doors will gather breathtaking views of the surrounding garden, and the
scents of lavender, rosemary and lemon verbena will be a visitor’s constant reminder that the riches and
spirit of the earth should be a central part of every life and the food that sustains it.
And, of course, the best-of-the-best culinary equipment will facilitate hands-on demonstrations and cooking
sessions where everyone learns the techniques to prepare “The Cuisine of the Californias” before sitting
down to their fresh-from-the-garden feast.
“I want people to be so very comfortable in their kitchens at home, and secure in their knowledge of food,”
says Deborah Szekely, “that they will be able to actually create recipes, or adapt their family favorites, into
a cuisine that truly sings the song of a new, healthier way of life.”
Ranch Program: Guests stay for one week, from Saturday to Saturday, and enjoy “All Inclusive” rates
that include accommodations, fitness classes, gourmet organic meals, activities and special presentations.
Spa treatments and personal training sessions are available at very reasonable fees. La Cocina Que Canta
complements the Ranch’s approach to achieving a true balance of mind, body and spirit health via outdoor
activities in nature such as swimming and guided hikes, as well as 50+ different classes each week in yoga,
Pilates, tai chi, dance, and many other traditional strength, stamina, and flexibility disciplines.
Ranch Background: The original fitness resort and spa, Rancho La Puerta welcomes some 125 guests
each week to its 3,000 private acres of gardens, organic farm, mountains, hiking paths, and meadows. All
facilities and land are for the exclusive use of its guests, who come for the week, ensuring the delights of a
warm and welcoming shared community. The climate is near-perfect; warm and dry, with some showers, in
winter, and warm with very low humidity in summer. Rancho La Puerta is located only about 25 miles
from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 1,700 feet.
The cuisine is semi-vegetarian, featuring an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables. The freshest-of-
the-fresh seafood from the port of Ensenada, Baja California, brought in by our own driver and buyer from
a fishermen’s market where the local boats come in daily, allows the Ranch chefs to prepare spectacular
seafood dishes five times week. All meals offer both vegetarian and modified-vegetarian alternatives.
Soothing spa treatments, such as Rancho La Puerta’s unique healing massage, and a wide variety of body
and skin treatments, provide a restorative balance to more active pursuits.
“We provide the true luxury of time and space,” says co-founder Deborah Szekely, “that which is most
lacking in today’s life. Space to breathe freely, to relax and enjoy what will be ‘the longer-living, younger
life.’ And now we will have a school to complement that life—a school that will be like no other spa
cooking program or facility.”
Week-long packages start at $2,690 per person for a double occupancy room and are inclusive of
complimentary transportation from San Diego airport and back, meals, snacks, accommodations and a wide
array of fitness classes.
U.S. Reservations Office:
RANCHO LA PUERTA FITNESS RESORT & SPA
3323 Carmel Mountain Road
San Diego, CA 92121
T: 800.443.7565, 858.764.5500