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TIJUANA - Baja California Culinary Festival

TIJUANA - Baja California's top chefs, its cooking schools and the state's tourism promoters are joining forces for a five-day culinary event next month that will feature offerings from across the state's five municipalities.

Baja California Culinary Fest, scheduled for October 5 through October 9, capitalizes on the growing reputation of the region's cuisine, from taco stands to high-end restaurants.

Planned events include a trip to the Ramonetti cheese cellar in the Ojos Negros Valley, a gastronomic contest in Tijuana featuring master chefs from both sides of the border, and an outdoor dinner in the Guadalupe Valley.

The events are expected to bring together top chefs from across Mexico as well as some from San Diego and Los Angeles. The offerings range in price from $7 for a taste of dried fruits, home-brewed fresh beverages and chocolate to $300 for a day-long hunting expedition followed by an open-air meal.

Baja California's cuisine has been widely celebrated in recent months, both across Mexico and internationally, through television cooking shows, food blogs and articles in major publications.

Chicago celebrity chef Rick Bayless on Saturday launches an eight-part series on the culinary offerings of the Baja California peninsula that is airing across the United States on PBS stations.

While Mexican diners have been going out in growing numbers, chef Benito Molina of Ensenada's Restaurant Manzanilla said something has been missing: diners from southern California.

U.S. tourists who once filled his restaurant and others have dropped off in recent years through a combination of factors-the Great Recession, reports of violence, long waits at the border-and one of the aims of the festival is to entice these visitors to return.

"We're still pushing, we're cooking every day," said Molina, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute.

Promoters of the event are offering special hotel rates and bus transportation from the border. For more information, go to

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