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 Thierry Blouet combines fine dining with sleek design

By Sigurd Neubauer


“Hospitality is in my blood,” explains chef celebre and restaurateur Thierry Blouet, the owner of three of Mexico’s top restaurants. It took the French entrepreneur, who was born in Puerto Rico, 20 years to build the restaurant he had always desired: Café des Artistes of Puerto Vallarta.

Blouet, whose specialty is French cousine, started his first restaurant in Puerto Vallarta in 1991 without any capital or access to credit. 32 years later, with a family of seven, including his Mexican wife, Rosé Blouet, he now owns the Tuna Blanca restaurant in Punta Mita – an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. His third, also named Café des Artistes, is located within the JW Marriott hotel in Los Cabos.

A self-made entrepreneur, who had initially been accepted into the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, opted not to go at the end as he instead chose to work 12–15-hour days to learn what would become his craft and life passion: French cousine.

His father, who managed several hotels for former Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid, had chosen to retire in Mexico following a storied career in the hospitality industry that had brought the family to Venezuela, Spain, the French territory of New Caledonia and Australia.

“I was always educated within the French system,” Blouet says, who first arrived in Mexico 45 years ago with his parents.

Max and Antoinette Blouet at the George V hotel in Paris

Blouet’s grandfather had also been in the hospitality industry where he managed the George V hotel in Paris during World War II, which is now operated by the Four Seasons. 

“The hotel that my grandfather managed for many decades remains one of the top three hotels in France,” Blouet says. On why he didn’t go into the hotel industry as his father and grandfather had one before him, Blouet explains: “It’s one thing to own a hotel, to manage it is another. I always wanted to run my own restaurant.”

For Blouet – who first dreamed of being a chef when he was seven years old – equates haute cuisine with artistry, which is why he chose to name his flagship restaurant the Café of the Artist. 

I was always educated within the French system, but have lived in Mexico for the past 45 years
Blouet partnered with Guadalajara's Studio 3.14 to redesign his flagship restaurant

“In Europe, Café des Artistes is a fairly common name for a restaurant, but I chose it as it represents a way of life,” Blouet explains, adding that he’s preparing the dishes in an artistic fashion where colors and texture harmoniously blend into what he hopes will be an unforgettable gastronomical experience for his guests.

Over the years, he’s established an extensive art collection at the restaurant. “I was able to grow the art collection, little by little, by providing credit for food and beverages at the restaurant for local artists in exchange for paintings,” Blouet says.

To keep the restaurant’s ambiance current and up to date, Blouet recently upgraded its interior by partnering with Studio 3.14, a leading Mexican architecture and design company. 

“Our design has always evolved,” the entrepreneur explains as he emphasizes that it must blend with the restaurant’s garden.

“We cannot be too contemporary or too classic in our design as we must work around the many old trees that are erected in the middle of the restaurant garden. These old and beautiful trees, which were here long before we arrived, contribute to the restaurant’s ambiance.”

The classical aspect of the design, Blouet explains, comes to light with the restaurant’s tablecloth and napkins but different types of plates and silverware are selected to match the corresponding dishes. While the cousin is French in nature, Blouet occasionally experiments by adding Mexican textures but changes the menu twice a year. 

Thierry and Rosé Blouet

“I do classic French cuisine and use as much of Mexican items as possible, including by providing Mexican flavors where I can. But the technique and cousine are always French.”

“Seven days a week, we have a pianist performing for our guests who combines classical music with traditional Mexican music.”

Blouet’s restaurants are busy. On average, Café des Artistes hosts 50,000 people a year: his restaurant Tuna Blanca hosts 25,000 and his Café des Artistes in Los Cabos another 25,000.

The abandoned structure that Blouet purchased in 1995 for his flagship restaurant

Hard work 

 Behind Blouet’s success lies 32 years of hard work, along with an iron will, to succeed.

“When I first arrived in Puerto Vallarta at the age of 23-24, I had initially planned to work briefly for the Camino Real Hotel before moving on to something bigger and better. But when I saw how beautiful the city was, I immediately fell in love with it.”

Blouet is referring to the Bay of Banderas facing the Pacific Ocean to the West with forested mountains in the back which provide for what he calls “a stunning combination.” 

He adds: “I simply wanted to establish my life here.”

The restaurateur got his start when he initially partnered with a group of local businessmen opening the restaurant – Café des Artistes – but offered to buy them out two years later. He was, at the time, unable to do so, Blouet concedes as he did not have the capital required. 

“At the time, the landlord also increased our rent on us. In Mexico, unlike in Europe or the U.S., where a landlord raises rent annually by perhaps five to seven percent, in Mexico they raise the rent 100 percent if not even 200 percent when they see that you’re successful.”

He doesn’t mince his words: “They kill you.”

But the opportunity to buy out his partners would come a few years later, he recalls.

“In December 1994, the Mexican central bank devalued the peso between 13 and 15 percent to the U.S. Dollar and short-term interest rates were raised to 32 percent. I just couldn’t afford to buy it,” he says, adding that access to financing was also unavailable.

But with crisis comes opportunity. 

The devaluation of the peso led to a record number of Americans and Canadians selecting Puerto Vallarta as their destination for a vacation. “At this point, my initial partners saw the trend and doubled the price for me to buy them out, which I was ultimately able to do because of the sheer volume of tourists arriving,” the entrepreneur recalls but quips: “Without owning the property, one cannot establish a successful business in Mexico.”

Shortly thereafter, in 1995, Blouet purchased the plot of land where Café des Artistes is located today.

“Today, I have the best kitchen in all of Mexico,” he boasts, adding that its open solution enables his guests to watch every step of the culinary experience he provides. 

“On top of the new kitchen, we grow herbs for the restaurant but the rest of the vegetables – all organic – are sourced from nearby farms. We also provide fresh fish every day from the Bay [of Banderas].”

Café des Artistes integrates classical and contemporary design around its lush garden and terraces
It took me 20 years to build the restaurant I always envisioned. Today, I have the best kitchen in all of Mexico
In 1995, Heinz Reize, Thierry Blouet, and Roland Menetre established the International Gourmet Festival 

‘It’s all about community’

Every year, Café des Artistes participates in a fundraiser for the Yvonneka Foundation to help provide shelters for rescue dogs and cats.  

The foundation, which is spearheaded by Yvonne Kalman, the proprietor of Casa Yvonneka, a 14-bedrom villa overlooking the Bay of Banderas, plays an instrumental role in the city, Blouet explains.

“Years ago, there used to be hundreds of stray dogs and cats roaming the streets of Puerto Vallarta. Nobody would take care of them, and they would get into the trash at night and spread the litter all over town.” He directly credits the Yvonneka Foundation for helping turn the city into what it has become.

“The foundation helps provide a shelter for the dogs and cats while they await adoption. With so many Americans settling into the city, it has become fashionable to adopt a pet,” he explains.

Blouet has established a sizable art collection at Café des Artistes

Blouet is also the founder of Puerto Vallarta’s Gourmet Festival, which he has hosted for the past 27 years. It was initially modeled on the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival of Switzerland, the largest of its kind in the world, he adds.

The 9-day festival – which will convene from November 9 through the 19th of this year, will provide the aspiring bon vivant with 30 different venues from where to sample the best of what Puerto Vallarta has to offer. It also provides musical shows and 20-30 different types of wines, Blouet reveals.

“What makes this all go around is that I simply love what I do,” the restaurateur says, but pauses: “I want to inspire young people and let them know that they too can become successful if they apply themselves properly. Puerto Vallarta is truly one of the most beautiful places in Mexico and it is completely safe.” 

All images are credited to Thierry Blouet. 

Puerto Vallarta is truly one of the most beautiful places in Mexico and it is completely safe
Restauranteur Blouet convenes his executive team at Café des Artistes
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