by Lydia Linton Pontius
Gynna is an amazing womanóvibrant, energetic and always on the go. She is a chef, belly dancer, restaurateur, and instructor, divemaster and deckhand. She is a captivating woman with a very interesting story. Many people come to Akumal but few can say they have been there since they were four days old ...
Did you grow up in Akumal, and what was that like?
I have been in Akumal since I was four days old. This is my home and I love it! Growing up here ... I would not change it for the world. Growing up in nature and pretty much in seclusion was very nice and peaceful. I could walk in the middle of the road and not worry about traffic. Seeing another person not from here was like, "OMG! Who are you? Where do you come from? Let's go fishing or diving." I would see many animals (coatimundis, monkeys, wild hogs, parrots, Guacamayas, ocelots, etc.) The fishing was excellent and the fish were so abundant and HUGE!!!! Record size. The reefs were also more colorful and alive. But mostly I remember climbing trees, every time trying to climb higher, making my own kites, trying to fly away in my kites, fishing and diving in the bay, thatís where I learned at four years old with my dad. Playing in the rain and in the puddles was very fun also; I did that just the other day and it felt good. There was a small crowd of people here, mostly Americans (USA), and that was it. Just us, we all knew each other, and it was like a big, happy family. We would all get together very often, have bonfires on the beach and mingle. They were happy people and life was much simpler then. We used to communicate by radio and I remember my parents buying like the first cell phone ever on the market; it was a phone booth. I will always remember those days and keep them close in my heart. The simpler, the better.
Where did you go to school?
I was home-tutored up through seventh grade by certified teachers from the U.S. and Canada. For eighth and ninth grades, I went to El Paso, Texas to school for adaptation to normal schools and, after that, I went to boarding school in Arizona. I graduated high school at 17 and then went to The Art Institute of Phoenix and got an associate's degree in the Science of Culinary Arts.
What is the secret of your cooking?
Love and passionóif itís not fun, I donít do it. I love to create anything. Iím just better at creating dishes.
How did you get into belly dancing?
One day it just happened. I had a friend who played the Egyptian drum, and he was playing one night and I began to dance to the drum. Later that night he told me I was belly dancing. I said, "Whatís that?" so he showed me a video of a real belly dancer. I loved it!!!! When I was younger, I liked to go to the clubs and just dance. I would dance hip hop, break dance, do the Roger Rabbit, dance like Michael Jackson, and somehow in that my dancing evolved into belly dancing.
What made you decide to settle in Akumal?
Akumal is my home. Iíve been here all my life, and while I have traveled to the other side of the world in search of the most beautiful beaches, I realized I have it all here. This is my paradise on earth.
Tell us about your restaurant, what inspired you to open it and what makes your menu different?
Gynn'AK is a stepping stone to the rest of my life and my career. One day I woke up and was tired of freelancing and hustling my gigs. I knew then it was time to make a change and to make the biggest commitment of my life, a real job! I had decided a while back, after working for several restaurant owners, that I would never again break my back making others rich, that the work from then on out was my own and for me and only me. So I decided to open up my own restaurant! My menu is different from the rest because of my creativity, and because I cater to locals as well as anybody else. But I must cater to locals because in the off season I depend on them for business. I offer excellent food at a local price, which no one else does in Akumal. I am also unique because my specialty is Thai-Mexican Fusion Cuisine, which there is little of around, and none other in this area. The food is made only with the freshest ingredients, the taste is a taste you will never forget, like a party of flavors in your mouth, and the presentation is very vibrant in colors; this is like my finishing touch, the liquor on the canvas. I enjoy what I do, I do it with love and passion and I do my work with pride.
What are your future plans?
Uuufffff! So many, I hope to live long enough. In the end I just want to travel the world, but in the meantime I want to open a few other food joints, like a taco stand on the highway of Akumal, a just-seafood restaurant/cevicherŪa somewhere locally, and my master plan is to have my location on the beach with a few nice ecological cabanas and my Thai-Mex Fusion restaurant with beach lounge and ecological water activities. I would have my own cabana house off to the side where it is more private and would have many hammocks and dogs.
What makes Gynna tick? What is your passion?
Number 1: if itís not fun I donít do it. I am very much into nature conservation and being ecological. So anything that has to do with nature is my passion. If the world were suddenly to go back to living back in time, I'm totally for it. I love horseback riding. When I was a baby and little girl, I had several rescue horses my mom bought that were starving, tied up on the side of the road. So ever since then it has been my dream to own a horse again, forget the car and just ride the horse everywhere. I also love scuba diving in open water, exotic places and the caves. I love caves and cenotes. Sometimes on a good or bad day, doesnít matter to me, I just go into the underworld, "inframundo," as the Maya call it, and admire natureís doing and meditate. When I am down there, the rest of the world does not exist for me and neither do my life situations at that time. It is just me and the universe and we are all connected. I also love to eat fruit, natureís gourmet desserts. And I love to cook and create new dishes for all to enjoy and have a better day because they ate something delicious and made with love. And all that makes me happy.
Tell us about Franky.
In 2009 I decided I would rescue puppies one at a time. I started with Franky. But I originally had a chocolate Lab named Browny, and he lived to be 17Ĺ. I had him when I was six; my father gave him to me when my parents divorced. I had Browny up until three years ago when he died. And I could not replace him. While Browny was still alive, I had gone to Miami for a job as a sous chef, and in that time I rescued a dog that looks like a Fox Terrier, black and white spots, and small. He was the coolest dog. I called him the "trick dog that fell off the circus train." I did not know what to call him, so I started to say many names, all that I could think of, and the last name I said was "Franky!" And ever since then, I wanted another Franky dog. Before coming back home, I had to find him a home as no one claimed this dog. After Brownie died I decided I would have a Franky dog when the time was right. The time came. I was on a jungle tour and where we stopped to eat there was a mama dog with teats. I speak to animals, and I asked her to show me her puppies and she led me the way. And there I saw my Franky for the very first time. He was the only black and white dog; the rest were light brown and Rottweiler looking. Franky was in a house with very bad living and eating conditions. The mama dog would go to the streets to eat. She was really, really skinny. So I asked the lady if I could adopt the dog, and she told me to come back in 20 days because Franky was still nursing, and so he was. From time to time I would take Franky's brothers and mom food.