BOGOTA, Sept 14 ― Leonor Espinosa. She’s not a household name yet, but after winning a major international culinary prize and being named Latin America’s best female chef within the span of just a few months, the world of haute gastronomy is taking note.
This week, organisers of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants ― an offshoot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants ― named Espinosa the region’s best female chef 2017 for reviving Colombia’s culinary traditions with local ingredients at her Bogota restaurants Leo and Misia.
Leo was voted Best Restaurant in Colombia 2016.
From seared tuna, coated with crushed ants, to carne oreada, a jerky-like steak typical of the Santander region, and Afro-Colombian coffee, Espinosa’s food aspires to restore pride in Colombia’s culinary traditions and elevate local dishes to fine dining status ― no small feat given the country’s gastronomic identity crisis.
Colombia is now where Peru was 15 years ago, she says. Instead of local Colombian flavors, the dining landscape is dominated by international restaurants.
Today, Peruvian cuisine has succeeded in capturing the imagination of some of the world’s top chefs: Albert Adria’s Barcelona restaurant Pakta serves a Nikkei menu, a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines.
Espinosa acknowledges that Colombian cuisine is still largely off the radar in the world of haute gastronomy. But she believes that Colombia is on its way to becoming the next Peru.
“In Peru, wherever you go, you’ll find anticuchos, cevicherias, sangucherias ― much more Peruvian than international cuisine,” she said in an interview.
“But 15 years ago, Lima wasn’t a place where you would find local food everywhere. Like Colombia, Peru had a lot more international than local restaurants. That has changed, and it’s partly the Peruvians who have changed it ― by becoming proud of their own cuisine. We are in that process now.”
Along with her inventive local cuisine, Espinosa also researches, reclaims and promotes Colombian ingredients and sustainable practices through her foundation Funleo.
In July, the former economist and artist was also awarded the Basque Culinary World Prize which goes to chefs who make a difference and comes with a €100,000 (RM500,718) prize.
The jury ― which was made up of big chef names like Joan Roca, Dominique Crenn, and Michel Bras ― praised the chef for supporting local communities and producers through her foundation.
Espinosa will receive her award at the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants event October 24 in Bogota. ― AFP-Relaxnews