Foodie Events / Restaurants

Inside Texas Barbecue Master Ronnie Killen’s Ultimate Mexican Food Weekend — When a Fabled Resort Turns Into a Grand Food Stage

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal's Chef Weekends Provide a Different Level of Vacation

photography Studio Caribe

It is not the Fourth of July without fireworks, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and barbecue. And if you’re going to talk smoked meat, Texas barbecue maestro Ronnie Killen is as good of a source as any. 

The stars in that grand ‘ole flag aligned on Fourth of July weekend for an epic food collaboration between the top pit master  and the super swanky Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal resort, just five minutes from the heart of Cabo San Lucas.

The barbecue event was part of the hotel’s signature Culinary Weekend Series, which brings four full days (these Los Cabos weekends are supersized) of dinners, foodie adventures and cooking showcases, tapping notable chefs like Michael Mina,  and Kim Alter – and Nancy Oakes and Nancy Silverton, who are coming in November

Houston native Killen appropriately joined those chef ranks, pairing the best of Texas barbecue with soulful Mexican food from Los Cabos Pedregal executive chef Gustavo Pinet in a dreamy coastal setting.

A Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Killen is a multiple time James Beard Award semifinalist nominee whose global profile is growing. Of course, Killen is a long established Houston force with six Bayou City restaurants — the original Killen’s Steakhouse, Killen’s BBQ, Killen’s STQ, Killen’s TMX, Killen’s Burgers and Killen’s in The Heights.

Killen and his team of talented chefs descended upon the acclaimed Mexican resort to prepare for the special barbecue weekend with the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal team. The visiting chefs discovered local ingredients and new techniques from their Mexican partners to dazzle attendees from Texas, California and beyond.

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Ronnie Killen Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Culinary Weekend (Photo by Studio Caribe)
Chef Ronnie Killen and the talented chefs who made the culinary weekend happen pose for a pic. (Photo by Studio Caribe)

While the Killen’s crew could be seen relaxing poolside in between events, soaking up the Cabo sun making their cooking labors look effortless, it was clear they were hard at work in the background tirelessly scheming to turn out four straight nights of mouthwatering meals.

To accentuate the impressive lineup of dining experiences in store for the weekend, the hotel itself has a thoughtfully curated food and beverage program. From the variety of infused ice teas available poolside to an inventive beachside sushi menu and the daily amenity of house made chips and guacamole brought to guest’s rooms each evening with two Mexican beers, there seems to be a new delight at every turn.

The Art of Smoke Meets Mexico

Following a welcome cocktail reception with event partners Koch el Mezcal and Robert Mondavi Winery, the foodie extravaganza continued with a Ronnie Killen takeover of the Waldorf Astoria’s signature restaurant Don Manuel’s.

With live jazz music and the crashing pacific waves setting the dinner scene, diners were presented with a special menu of dishes all created by Chef Killen and his team. As an homage to Killen’s unique approach to cooking with fire, the menu brought Mexican flavors to versions of the barbecue maven’s most well-known dishes.

I started with a brightly flavored black abalone aquachile with plantain tostones, creamed corn empanadas and a smoked brisket birria taco that all beautifully merged the best of Texas and Mexico.

The next course of lobster tail accentuated with chorizo, white beans and pickled red cabbage combined the best of Baja seaside food with Killen’s rich, smoky signature style.

The weekend’s Saturday night Chef’s Table dinner proved Killen’s mastery at artfully combining traditional smoky flavors and techniques into any cuisine.

A Ronnie Killen Chef’s Table

With an intimate table for just nine discerning diners in the hotel’s chic Su Cocina — a floor to ceiling tiled dining and kitchen space with an authentic Mexican kitchen feel — Killen showed off the true extent of his skills. A team of more than 15 chefs and restaurant workers were there to make sure the meal lived up to the stunning setting.

Each of the six courses came from completely new recipes designed by Killen and his team — each seemingly more indulgent than the last. Chefs from Killen’s team presented the different courses with charming anecdotes, adding to the special night. It quickly became clear that the meal was a true passion project, showcasing Killen’s signature recipes with inventive flavors based on the surroundings.

The meal started with a green aguachile with citrus cured chocolate clams and scallops. Next came pork belly braised in watermelon juice with grilled watermelon and a mint salsa verde making for the most unexpectedly delicious flavor profile.

A smoky grilled octopus tostada with traditional Mexican salsa macha and a birria taco made with braised duck leg and local plum pico de Gallo turned out to be a very tasty merger. 

The show stopping fifth course was A5 Wagyu Kagoshima, with its rich smoky flavors making for a true melt-in-your-mouth steak course.

Ronnie Killen Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal Culinary Weekend (Photo by Studio Caribe)
One of the final courses was a mouthwatering A5 Wagyu Kagoshima steak with potato and mushroom confit (Photo by Studio Caribe)

The final dessert course was an interesting rendition of Killen’s German chocolate cake (which is on the menu at Killen’s new Southern kitchen in The Heights) cooked as a traditional Mexican tamal. The corn and chocolate blended richly together with a Koch Arroqueño Mezcal pairing.

Lauren Oliver, one of the winemakers from the legendary Robert Mondavi Winery, popped in to present different wine pairings for each course, showcasing quintessential Napa Valley winemaking.

In true Killen’s fashion, the finale of the weekend turned out to be a festive Fourth of July celebration centered around the chef’s proven barbecue. A large crowd of Killen’s admirers savored smoked brisket (which the team put on the smoker at midnight the previous night), house made sausage, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs, juicy smash burgers, Southern mac and cheese and Killen’s barbecue banana pudding favorite.

The firework show over the beach that followed was impressive, but the real sparks came from this true Texas barbecue fiesta with a Mexican twist.

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