Peter Kuruvita. Picture: Supplied

Peter Kuruvita's latest TV food odyssey may be dubbed Mexican Fiesta but after chatting to the intrepid Australian chef, I get a sense something playful like "Guacamole and Gun-toting Gangsters" could be just as apt.

"I like wild and crazy places that have wonderful food and beautiful people who are really passionate about life," Kuruvita tells me down the line from his newly adopted home of Noosa about his decision to explore Mexico for his third TV series following the success of Island Feast (2012) and My Sri Lanka (2011).

"It has that element of danger and a lot of preconceived ideas of what the food is."

Indeed, living dangerously in the Central American nation is exactly what the affable chef and TV personality did during a three-and-a-half month stint there last year to film the 10-part SBS series.

Apart from the usual technical challenges of shooting in remote locations - heat and humidity affecting camera equipment, for example - the Mexican Fiesta crew had to contend with a range of other day-to-day issues.

"When we filmed by the coast, there was a scorpion jumping out from under the rocks I was sitting on and when we were in the north in the canyons in Chihuahua, there were gun-toting, drug-taking gangsters who were quite happily wielding their weapons in your face," Kuruvita vividly recalls.

"Driving on a hand-built road with a 1000-foot (300m) drop on one side - knowing quite well that the guy driving you has had about 10 tequilas that morning - look, they're the kind of fun parts I enjoy.

"There were five of us on the road, two vans, two drivers and a local fixer and some days an hour's drive would take three hours and I would say to the driver 'What's going on' and he would say they heard on the grapevine that this highway was hotted up, meaning that there is gang or kidnapping activity and we'd have to take an alternative route."

Of course, the cross-country journey gave Kuruvita - who hopes to release an accompanying cookbook next year - as many culinary insights as it did cultural ones. Admittedly surprised to discover a long list of Western staples - tomato, chilli, corn, beans, avocado, chocolate, vanilla and chewing gum, to name but a few - originated in Mexico, he hopes the show will challenge audiences' perceptions of this often-misrepresented and misunderstood cuisine.

Coinciding with the new wave of Mexican restaurants that have opened across Australia (and in Perth) of late, Kuruvita believes the show has a timely role to play in cross-cultural awareness.

"I think a lot of the Mexican restaurants are still cooking Tex-Mex, and that's a very different thing . . . lots of food that has travelled the world has become bastardised and actually removed the real identity of what it is," he laments.

"So the explosion of Mexican restaurants and this show coinciding are fantastic for me and it was all part of the thought process . . .

"I hope we show people real Mexican food; I hope it drives people to Mexican restaurants more and that they demand real Mexican."

The West Australian

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