Jungle Jax

Beyond the Plate: the story behind Jungle Jax by Bastien Portal

In Dine, People, People, Playa del Carmen & Tulum by Regina García

Beyond the Plate: the story behind Jungle Jax by Bastien Portal

Take a glimpse into the life and vision of Bastien Portal, who recently opened Jungle Jax, a restaurant that brings a touch of France to the shores of Tulum, creating an unforgettable dining experience rooted in family, quality, and sustainability.  Born in the heart of Bourgogne, France, Bastien’s culinary journey began at a young age, inspired by the rich flavors in his family’s kitchen. From the bustling markets of Paris to the sun-kissed shores of the Mediterranean, Bastien honed his craft in Michelin-starred restaurants and boutique eateries, each experience shaping his culinary philosophy rooted in tradition.

Name: Bastien Portal

Instagram: @junglejax.tulum

Title: Founder of the restaurant 

City you live in: Tulum, Mexico

Most recent city visited: Riviera Maya, Bacalar, Costa Rica, and Guatemala

A typical day in my life includes: Starting around 8 in the morning, dropping off my baby at school at 9, having breakfast at the beach or in downtown Tulum with my wife, checking various orders with suppliers, doing some shopping, picking up my baby at 12, spending family time until around 4:30 in the afternoon, then starting production with Hugo, my colleague, at 5, preparing everything for the opening at 6:30, and finishing around 11:30. After cleaning up and placing orders, I usually go to bed around 1.

I was born in Bourgogne, France, in February 1990, and when I was a child, we moved, and I grew up in the south of France, where my dad’s family comes from.

When I was younger, I wanted: a job where I could interact with people. When I was 14, I had to do community service to see how it is in a company. I did it in a restaurant owned by a friend of my dad, and that’s when I discovered the world of catering. I did various jobs, like a salesperson in an agency, a wine seller, until I returned to the culinary world. But I always wanted to work with social contact and share something with people, which is why it felt natural to return to catering, a place where we share conversations, stories, dishes—everything. That’s the natural path for me to open places in my life. After that, I had a restaurant on the beach in the south of France, facing the Mediterranean, for 6 years. I worked in Michelin-starred restaurants or managed restaurants in Paris before the expatriation.

What where you inspired by when creating Jungle Jax? I was inspired by the desire to create a place where people could share moments, conversations, and quality dishes, reminiscent of the warmth and hospitality of a family or friends dinner.

What is your favorite dish from the menu and what’s the story behind it? If I have to choose a favorite dish from our menu, I think it would be the “vinaigrette” pork. It’s a typical French dish that has existed for more than 1000 years and was traditionally served in every household, regardless of social status. Also, the roasted chicken is a favorite because it’s the quintessential French dish that evokes the smells, flavors, and memories of Sunday lunches for every French person.

How would you describe Jungle Jax in one word? Authenticity

Where does name come from? The name comes from our son, Jax. It felt natural to name the restaurant after him, as he is at the heart of our project.

How is Jungle Jax social and environmentally responsible? We work with pure fresh products, organic meat, and use short circuits to work with suppliers near us. For all take-out orders, we use recycled cane. Additionally, we strive to provide education from the beginning of our child’s life, as we believe in transmitting education for the future of children and the world of tomorrow.

What makes Jungle Jax stand out from other French restaurants? Jungle Jax stands out by working contrary to the fast consumption trend seen in Tulum and worldwide. We prioritize quality over quantity, aiming to create a warm and welcoming environment where people can share moments and conversations over quality dishes, reminiscent of a family gathering.

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