Ixta is more than just a restaurant now – with its open air, on street lounge and dining, owner Pierre Baeriswyl has brought European “cafe society” influence to Lazaro Cardenas. It is the venue for Amigos monthly buffet breakfast meetings, and also the “Cheers” bar for many of our community, especially our hard working recyclers.
Pierre, we are very pleased to have you here! Please tell us about your early life.
I was born in Frieburg, Switzerland, where 70% of the town’s population speak French, 30% German. I have two older sisters and three younger brothers. My father was a farmer, just a small agricultural farm with about 25 cows, and I worked there as a teenager.
Did you know what you wanted to do in your adult life?
No. One thing I did know was that I did not want to do farming!
After an apprenticeship, I became a cheesemaker and I was in this trade for 12 years. But I thought: “I’m not sure I want to do this all my life!” So I took a year off and went to Australia to learn English. It has better weather than England! And then as I had saved my money, I had $20,000, I thought I’d see how far I could get. I had a backpack and I went to New Zealand, Malaysia,Thailand, India and Nepal.
That’s some fabulous travelling! Did you go back to cheesemaking?
No, I worked in restaurants, as a waiter, things like that, I was the waiter with the boss behind me kicking my ass! Then I went to college and studied for hotel and restaurant management. After that I had a nightclub – well it was a discotheque. That was the late 1990s and it was so noisy! And all the night life that was happening…Well by then I was 42 and I was tired of this rhythm of nightlife, all the excesses, so I thought it was time for a change. I thought I’d go travelling again, go to somewhere I hadn’t been, so I sold my part of the business and came to Mexico.
I’d always wanted to learn Spanish, and for some reason I preferred to travel to Mexico rather than Spain.
You speak French, German, English and Spanish?
Where did you go to in Mexico?
Mexico City, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta – my goal was Oaxaca… I haven’t been there yet, I am still on my way! I came to Bucerias at the beginning of 2005.
This place had been just a hamburger place, it only lasted the season, and then somebody else rented it and called it Ixta.
Where does the name Ixta come from?
It’s the name of the 3rd highest mountain in Mexico and is an extinct volcano near to Mexico City which looks like a sleeping woman. The name in full is Iztaccihuatl, and in Aztec mythology she was a princess who fell in love with one of her father’s warriors, Popocatepetl. The emperor sent him off to war in Oaxaca, promising him Ixta in marriage when he returned, presuming he would not. When she was falsely told he had died, Ixta died of grief. It’s like an Aztec version of Romeo and Juliet. When the warrior returned he took her body to Tenochtitlan where the gods changed them into mountains and covered them with snow.
How did you get involved in Ixta?
I was introduced to the man running it by Cara Anderson. He was looking for a business partner to develop the restaurant. I had nothing special to do – and I did have my restaurant training and experience so I knew what I was doing and I said, ok, I’ll take a chance. Besides, I’d always wanted to be somewhere warm! We were in partnership for that first year, after that I bought his share and since then I have been the sole business owner.
My idea was to have more of a bar than a restaurant actually, but…I knew I wanted to change the layout. In Mexico there are open courtyards, patios, but they all seem to be at the back of the business. I wanted it to be more European, to have a terrace at the front so you can see people going by.
You rent the premises?
Yes, so I didn’t really want to spend too much money, whatever I do here is for the benefit of the owner!
There were lovely murals depicting the Ixta story, I was sorry to see them go. But the hibiscus are great – who painted them?
That’s Jean from Le Bistrot.
You have certainly made a difference, it was very dark inside.
When I reopened I hadn’t got the sign put up and people walked past not realizing it was Ixta. Some were coming to the Amigos breakfast and went past a few times, they were really puzzled and stopped to ask where was Ixta. It was very amusing!
How many employees do you have, and do you contribute into the social security system?
Yes we are in the social system. The numbers depend – if it is a really busy Amigos breakfast meeting then I have extra help. At the height of the season I have maybe seven staff, and of course I am working all the time too. If it was necessary I would work in the kitchen, but I am not a chef, I am front of house. And I do all the shopping. And then there’s all the paperwork. January to March we are open 7 days week. Outside of that we are only closed Sundays. That’s starting with breakfast, open all day and through to dinner service. It’s a long day! We also have live entertainment Christmas to March.
Did you have many problems setting up in business?
No, it’s more or less the same, similar permits, approval of the bomberos, and so on, but in Switzerland everything works and here nothing does! To do the paperwork there’s always another piece they want, or they want more copies of this and that, it takes forever. At first I said “what am I doing here?” Then I got used to it. But it doesn’t get better – just to renew my licence I have had to go out to Valle three times – and I still haven’t got it !
What was your family reaction to you moving to Mexico?
They said I was completely crazy, completely! My father said “ you will spend all your money, you will come back in six months, and I am not going to help you!”
But before he died he did know that you were a success.
Yes he changed his mind, though he still thought I was crazy! But I was always the black sheep of the family.
Have any of your family visited you here?
None. My Mother has never been on a plane in her life, and this is too long a journey for her. My brothers and sisters have young kids, the flights are expensive and again the trip is long, a minimum of 18 hours.
Do you visit them in the summer?
Sometimes I travel in Mexico. This summer I will see my family – one of my brothers took on the family farm. I will probably get a job somewhere as I have bills to pay on my house and after the treatment following upon my accident. I prefer to go via Mexico City and Paris or London, it’s a lot less complicated than flying into America.
That was an unfortunate accident
I just walked on the septic tank access cover in the garden at my house and it gave way, I fell in and then more masonry fell on top of my leg, it was broken in two places. This was at the end of September 2014, just before the start of the season and there was a lot to do ! I don’t have IMSS (Government medical insurance) because I hear conflicting reports on the service, maybe I should consider it. To have private insurance would cost me maybe $4,000 a year. I went to Medicair at Mezcales, Dr Plantilla, and it was only $5,000, that’s the operation – two screws here and seven the other side, and the rehabilitation. It was a very good job and everything is fine.
Ever since then I try not to walk on any kind of covers!
Me too !
Where do you live, do you own it, and have you done any construction work there?
I’m in Loma Bonita, it’s up near where you pay your water bill. I own it but I haven’t done anything to it but this year I need to weather proof the roof before the start of rainy season.
Do you have any pets?
Yes a rescue cat I found on the streets named Daisy. Yes I know, it’s a horrible name!
Do you have any hobbies or interests – in your spare time!
Sleeping! Doing nothing! I like to read and go to the beach – I am too busy in the winter season to do this, not even to read a book, to enjoy being here the way the tourists do. We have no time for ourselves and when the season is over it’s like: “finally!” and we don’t want to see anyone for a while! But then of course when the season starts again, it’s exciting to see everyone return, our regulars – it’s like having friends come back.
As we have sat here it is obvious how incredibly noisy and busy this road is.
I think they should make it one way, with the return on Francisco Madero behind us. During the season it is a nightmare with all the cars parked on both sides, sometimes it is difficult for a truck to get through.
Despite all the bad press, do you see greater tourism now than when you started ten years ago?
Yes, more tourists, more traffic, and more construction! Overall Bucerias hasn’t changed as much as other areas in the Bay – La Cruz changed so much when they added the marina.
Do you go into Bucerias centro much?
No, it means if I was driving, going up to the highway and then down…I think we are a town divided by that kissing bridge, I think it should be opened up to traffic. And I also think places should be allowed to stay open later. People ask me, after dinner, what is there to do, where can we go and I say well it’s nearly midnight so you’d better hurry you’ve got an hour left in Bucerias centro. Otherwise you have to take a taxi through to PV. My permit is only until midnight, and having worked all day from breakfast, I certainly don’t need to be any later than that! Some clubs in PV stay open until 6 in the morning! It’s the Nayarit Government don’t allow the late hours.
And I think they should do something about the roads here, everywhere else there are nice roads, and kept clean but not here – we are the forgotten town. A few years ago they had to change all the sewer system so they completely dug up Lazaro Cardenas to do that, and then they said to the property owners – we can put it all back with the cobblestones at no cost, but they only last maybe a couple of years and need repairs. Or we can put down this stamped concrete which really lasts. But if you want that then you are all going to have to contribute, it was something like 10% or 20%of the cost, based upon your frontage out to half the width of the street. There was a meeting and the majority said they wanted the stamped concrete, and those who didn’t pay, there would be a charge or lien on the property.
If you were to leave Bucerias – where would you go?
Maybe I’d get to Oaxaca! I do need to go and have a look. But the summer would be very hot. I would stay in Mexico, I wouldn’t go back to Switzerland. I’m 52 now – who would give me a job? And really, I don’t want to have a boss over me!
If you didn’t have a restaurant – what else would you do?
I’d like a bed and breakfast – maybe not even the breakfast!
Do you have any regrets about coming here?
None at all.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
When I said I wanted to be somewhere warm, I didn’t know summers were so hot, I think they are getting hotter every year! And I would like it if we could stop the trucks, stop the pollution – go back to using a donkey!
Some interesting ideas Pierre! Thank you for your time and good luck for the 2015 – 2016 season!
Ixta Restaurant is on Lazaro Cardenas #500,Bucerias: Tel: 298 3486