Chef Eleazar Bonilla
Chef Eleazar Bonilla was raised in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico by a mother who was an exceptional cook and baker and a father who was a ‘tortillero’. As a child, Eleazar was delighted in classic Mexican ‘antojitos’ prepared by his parents – sparking a life-long love for Mexican food.
At the age of 8, frustrated with the food he was served while his parents were at work, Eleazar began to follow recipes found in his mothers cook books and culinary magazines.
His early culinary adventures led Eleazar to work professionally as a cook in his hometown, but he had his mind set on studying chemistry and developing a career outside of the kitchen. Despite his attempts to avoid cooking as a career, one day a street sign for a local culinary school sparked a flashback to the love of food he had experienced as a child, and he knew then that he was destined to become a chef.
While pursuing his degree at the Culinary Institute of Querétaro he supported himself by working in different restaurants around the city, working 12 hours a day in the kitchen followed by 8 hours of classes and homework – learning the discipline and determination required to be a leading executive chef.
In order to hone his Mexican cooking skills, he traveled and began cooking in a number of regions around the Mexico including: Mexico City, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Durango, Tijuana, Mazatlan and Puebla. He drew inspiration from the varied styles and flavors in each region, and what he learned continues to influence his cooking today.
He knew that in order to accomplish his goals of working in large kitchens he would need to learn from the resorts in the coastal regions of Mexico, so in 2009, Eleazar found himself in the Riviera Maya and began to working as a dishwasher in a local resort. He worked his way up the ranks through several resorts and eventually became the Executive Sous Chef for the seven restaurants For a period of time he was even Executive Chef.
Chef Bonilla ventured south to Tulum to break free of the rigid resort environment and for an opportunity to combine all of his influences, cooking regional Mexican cuisine for guests of La Zebra hotel. Though he was offered many opportunities to return to the busier Playa del Carmen area, at La Zebra he saw an opportunity to create his own culinary team and the restaurant he’d always dreamed of leading. Utilizing regional ingredients and products never previously available in Quintana Roo, he aimed to introduce locals and tourists alike to the flavors of Mexico. The result: La Zebra has become one of the top restaurants in Tulum, and the most popular location to experience true Mexican cuisine in the area.