A Culinary Legend Defines Puerta Vallarta’s Gourmet Scene: Nacho’s “La Leche”

We met Nacho Cadena, then Chef/Owner of “La Petite France” almost two decades ago. Dressed in his customary whites, his strong, chiseled features and piercing eyes were at once inviting and intimidating.   As we talked food, he spoke with pride and authority about the international influences that were so well developed that he and fellow top chefs started the International Gourmet Festival of Puerto Vallarta. ( See article: “Eating Your Way Around the World at Puerto Vallarta’s Festival Gourmet.” )

We remember devouring Nacho Cadena’s French fare seaside, as the warm sand and cool breezes provided the rather surprising but thoroughly enjoyable backdrop for his haute culinary creations.  His being was so passionate and devoted to Puerta Vallarta that he naturally became the city’s unofficial “cultural ambassador.”

Fast forward, to our next visit to Puerta Vallarta in 2015, when we were attending a conference. It was Chef Nacho who gave the opening welcome and set the tone for an impressive array of cultural and culinary events taking place in Puerto Vallarta. The years have deepened those intense features and his resolve to keep reinventing himself.

No longer at “La Petite France,” Nacho Cadena now oversees one of the hottest spots in town, La Leche

So we visited the restaurant La Leche, which is located in the hotel zone of Puerto Vallarta. The moment you step foot into the expansive space of this restaurant, you know you are in for an exciting evening.

La Leche takes it’s décor from the name,(“milk” in English): the palette is white—with dramatic black and white art, bold lighting, deliberately mismatched chairs, and hip music. The blackboard menu changes nightly to reflect the Chef’s breadth and depth of experience and talent. La Leche is clearly his personal expression of how he wants to entertain you. His message of warmth, welcome and hospitality is ably conveyed by the all black-clad serving staff.

For our first course at La Leche we were delighted by “Tuna  Tartare,”  fresh chopped raw tuna cured  in an Asian marinade. The next course, “Beef Carpaccio,” was drizzled with a balsamic glaze and sprinkled with local crumbled cheese with melt-in-your-mouth texture and subtle flavor, the best that many of us have ever tasted! A savory blended “Vegetable Soup” came next and  was silky and soul-satisfying, as was the impeccably executed “Risotto” with perfectly grilled octopus. The duck course was tender and succulent and the array of desserts wowed every sweet tooth in the house.

There could not have been a more deftly prepared tasting menu and the accompanying selection of margaritas from cucumber to mango to tamarind—all of which added flavor profiles that enhanced the dishes.

As the Proprietor Nacho strolled from table to table, chatting and posing for photos, it was clear that he is the “host with the most” and still on top of his gourmet game.

Puerto Vallarta has been good for Nacho and he has been good for the thousands of lucky diners who have enjoyed his creative gastronomy.

When Nacho Cadena  is asked, What next?” his intensity softens and his gaze turns heaven-ward as he whispers….”Que Sera Sera.”  Whatever it will be, we will be back to celebrate his passion for Puerta Vallarta and all that this culinary destination has to offer

Toques off to Chef Nacho!

( Go to “Visit Puerto Vallarta” for more info. )

By Diane Sukiennik and Michael Reiss, www.foodandwineaccess.com “Photos by  Michael Reiss” Courtesy Foodandwineaccess.com