Lunch with Tomas Luna Peña, Specialty Chef at Horacio’s in Querencia

Chef Tomas Luna Peña

Talk with anyone at Querencia Los Cabos, be it our members or staff, and you will realize that besides enjoying a good game of golf, we all have another passion: enjoying delicious food.  It’s no surprise then that at the community we have not one, but six restaurants or locations where you can savor delicious food and enjoy a good glass of wine or spirit.  One of the hidden treasures at Querencia is our quaint and romantic restaurant Horacio’s, nestled in a small valley, with enchanting views of the golf course and the Sea of Cortez.  We sat down for lunch with Chef Tomas to talk food, Querencia, and Los Cabos.

Chef Tomas, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your passions, your cooking style and origins?

I come from Huatulco, Oaxaca, where food is ingrained in our DNA.  I first started cooking in 1996, and in 1998 came to Los Cabos, where I started working at Westin Regina.  I was very passionate about cooking from the very beginning and was always scribbling notes about produce I was using and dishes I was cooking in my notebook.  I worked in different departments, learning everything from Mexican cuisine, to international, from main dishes to pastry.  I wanted to have a full experience and as wide knowledge as possible.  In these almost 20 years, I have worked in several resorts and hotels in Los Cabos.  Among some of the places I worked were restaurants at Las Ventanas al Paraíso resort, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, Playa Grande, Grupo Solmar, and Hacienda Encantada.  Some of my fondest memories also come while I worked at the legendary Twin Dolphin hotel, where I had the honor of cooking for Whitney Houston and Michael Jordan.

That’s an impressive resume! And what brought you to Querencia?

Cooking and leading kitchens at these amazing resorts and hotels was a fantastic experience, where I learned a lot and met amazing people.  But every time I passed Querencia sign on the highway, I wished I could get to know this community and work here.  Finally, in 2012 my wish came true.

I soon realized that being a chef at a golf community was very different than working at a resort. People stay at Querencia not only for vacation, this is their home, and they don’t want to taste the same dishes all the time, they want variety, they want delicious, cozy, home-feel food.  That’s why I try to offer to our members something different every day, maybe it’s an appetizer, or an entree, or a little something that will make a difference and delight our guests.  I started to get to know our members, what they like, what food preferences do they have, how do they like their food prepared, and I try to personalize the dishes for them.

Oaxaca is beautiful, but after 20 years I assume you have fallen in love with Los Cabos as well?

You are right, I have two homes now.  I will always love Oaxaca and it’s rich culture, and I always love visiting my hometown, family, and friends. But Los Cabos has been my home now for almost 20 years, and I really love it here.  I think Los Cabos is an amazing, privileged place, we have beautiful beaches, perfect climate, there are so many things you can do, from beach activities to the desert, hiking, and so on.  Besides cooking, I love motorsports, which is a popular sport around here, which makes it even better for me.  I also love getting to know different people and cultures.

Tell us about Horacio’s restaurant. How do you see it; what can guests expect from visiting it, from food to ambiance?

If I may say so myself, Horacio’s is very welcoming and cozy, with an excellent service.  It’s a Mexican restaurant with a Mediterranean touch and Baja based flavors.  I like mixing flavors, creating fresh seasonal dishes; like for example fresh pasta with basil, cherry tomatoes, and dry oregano.  I like to say that Horacio’s is a rustic, traditional Mexican restaurant with a fresh twist.  For example, I might change heavy ingredients with lighter ones.  I love to take time to prepare produce that I’ll be cooking, I will often marinate the meat overnight so that by the time I will start cooking it, it will absorb all the special flavors and juices.  Then I will just go to our garden, pick the vegetables and herbs, and prepare the dish.

Horacio’s organic garden is growing and growing!  What are you growing there now, and where do we use the produce at?

This is the best time for our garden, herbs are lush, and vegetables are growing.  We have spices, herbs, different kind of chiles and tomatoes, salad, and some other vegetables.  Next year we are planning to extend the garden and grow even more produce.  Currently, we use the produce at all of our restaurants, and the members are welcome to come, and get their fresh herbs as well!

I couldn’t avoid but asking you this question: What is your favorite Mexican dish? 

I will always say yes to a lentils soup with sausage, ham, and plantain.  My mom used to make this meal for me when I was a child.

Fresh Fish a la Veracruzana by Chef Tomas at Horacio’s

And what is your favorite dish and drink at Horacio’s, and why? 

Some of my favorite dishes at Horacio’s are fresh fish a la Veracruzana; shrimp or chicken enchiladas in red sauce; stuffed chiles with ranchera sauce, minced meat, fresh herbs, raisins, and fried plantains.  It’s hard to decide, I love all the dishes!  I love having a refreshing lemonade with a bit of fresh mint from the garden, and our guests claim Cadillac Margarita is the best cocktail.

Which dish is a hidden gem of the restaurant, that our members just have to try?

I would recommend enchiladas with mole and lamb.  They are exquisite!

Horacio’s restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (except on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, when dinner venue becomes Q Restaurant).  If you haven’t tried Chef Tomas’s cuisine yet, we highly recommend you give Horacio’s a try.  The entire team at Horacio’s will make you feel welcome, and offer a wonderful dining experience.  Chef Tomas’s meticulously prepared dishes, attention to details, friendly manner, and contagious smile, will make you come back for more.

For more info about Horacio’s and reservations, please contact us.

Interesting fact:  Horacio’s restaurant was first named Oasis. We renamed it to Horacio’s in honor of one of our beloved staff members at the restaurant, Horacio.

Chef Tomas gives thanks to the entire team of Querencia, to his wonderful and hardworking team members at Horacio’s; to the management, who let him show his passions and pamper our members with delicious cuisine; and to the Querencia Members, without which nothing we do would matter.  Chef Tomas would also like to thank Pierino Buila, Nestor Roman, Francis Drillen, Patrys Jaumont, Candelario Leon, and many other chefs who believed in him and marked his career during these past 20 years.