Che’z Cocco, a small Afro-Mexican owned brunch restaurant in Tulum, Mexico, has been open for less than six months, but it’s already drawing rave reviews from customers. A quick glance at their social media shows comments like “delicious food and juices and awesome friendly staff” and “must visit when you are in Tulum!!!!!!”
This is the type of reaction owner Cocco Zárate was hoping to elicit when she opened Che’z Cocco last November. Zárate is a proponent of positive energy and approaches every aspect of life with an abundance of optimism including the restaurant.
Che’z Cocco is also a nod to her heritage. Zaraté was born in a little town called Ometepec Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico, in a zone called Costa Chica, which is the area with the strongest Afro-Mexican presence and a population that has long struggled for recognition.
“There are two communities, one in Veracruz and the other one in the Pacific of Mexico where I come from, and it’s called Costa Chica,” Zaraté explained. “It is considered an independent zone because we as Afro-descendants are not recognized as Mexican. When the census comes every year, we have to cross a little box saying that we are mixed-race or indigenous. Two or three years ago, that was the very first time in Guerrero and Oaxaca they were able to put Afro-descendant. But in the rest of the country, we still do not have it. So we are working for it to happen in the whole country. Because we are all over the country, and we want to be recognized as part of this country. So food and our family have always been important.”
“The secret of the food is that it’s made with love,” she shared with Travel Noire during a break at the restaurant. “And when I say with love, we really love what we do. Everyone in this place is family and every single human being that comes into this place is not a customer. We talk to you like you’ve been here before and nothing has changed. It’s like coming to the front porch of your house or the back patio and being surrounded with love, positive energy, and healing energy. This is what I do here.”
And the feeling of home doesn’t just extend to the warm reception. It’s infused in the menu as well which includes pancakes, crêpes, enchiladas, burritos, and the traditional Mexican breakfast dish chilaquiles.
“Everything is natural,” said Zaraté about the food preparation process. “We have a little herb garden in the front. So everything is cooked with fresh herbs every single day. The recipes are family recipes from home, from my grandmother, and my mother. I just change little things, little twists to make it a little more modern, tastier, more flavorful, or just to make it more appealing to the eyes.”
It also helps that Zaraté has been in the food business for more than twenty years. She remembers cooking from as young as age six. Opening her own place during the pandemic was very risky she admitted and many questioned her decision to invest all her savings into the establishment, but she has no regrets.
“If I didn’t decide to come out of that comfort zone waiting for a job, I wouldn’t be in this place where I can share not just food but lots of love and beautiful energy.”
Where: Calle Alfa Norte esquina con Sagitario Poniente S/N Colonia Centro 77760 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Find out more about Che’z Cocco on Facebook.