This is yet another example of the talent of the so-called Venezuelan Diaspora, an endless flow of human talent that has managed to carve out new spaces to be competitive by the sheer force of its creativity.
The economic and social crisis affecting the South American country has forced the departure of more than 3 million citizens, according to UNHCR, who have found market niches around the world to perform and show their mettle.
While in Europe pastry was believed to be exclusively a French specialty, Angélica Locantore is changing mindsets.
CARACAS MARKS THE BEGINNINGS OF ANGELICA LOCANTORE
Her beginnings in the Venezuelan capital mark her journey; the love for her country comes through in her work as well as how much she values the flavors of her roots.
“At the age of 12 I started practicing in a restaurant in the afternoon and when I turned 15 it was clear to me that I wanted to study cooking. At that time I was in Baccalaureate (high school) and took bakery courses with baking teachers in Caracas, “Locantore explains to PanamericanWorld.
After studying a semester of Pure Physics at the university, she decided to focus on her calling. “I did International Pastry and Cooking courses with chef Eduardo Moreno. I returned to the university this time to take up Nutrition and Dietetics, while I also practiced soccer and worked in restaurants, especially during holidays. The truth is that I always liked the kitchen, but for one reason or another, I ended up working in pastry, “says Angelica.
Her sweet choice allowed her to work in renowned places in Caracas, where desserts had a special treatment in the menu.
VENEZUELAN INSPIRATION AND IDENTITY
In 2013 she traveled to Barcelona to continue her studies in cooking and pastry at Escola d’Hostaleria Hofmann. Her talent, discipline and passion took her to be among the top 3 students and obtain a 7-month internship at El Celler de Can Roca.
After completing her internship, she traveled to France where she spent two months working with Michel Bras. “It was rather brief because I was called from El Celler when their pastry chef resigned. That is when I took up the position as Head Cook and today I am their Pastry Chef.
Locantore defines her technique as classic but with avant-garde touches. Her great evolution as a pastry chef has played out since she came to El Celler. Locantore explains that in Catalonia, chefs defend their land, which did not happen much in Venezuela.
“I felt great sadness and nostalgia for my country, which I have not visited since 2013. That longing and need to feel joy for what I did took me to seek inspiration in landscapes and memories,” she says.
VENEZUELAN NATURE TRANSFORMED INTO DESSERTS
Out of that feeling came an unusual dessert that emulates the national tree of Venezuela, the Araguaney. “I wanted to express with flavors what made me happy about Caracas. There certainly are trees everywhere, but not everywhere can you find a yellow tree”.
She combined those typical Venezuelan flavors, including those that have been affected by the country’s economic situation. This is why Angelica Locantore’s Araguaney includes coffee, since she comes from a family that drinks a lot of it; the sarrapia (haba tonka), a vanilla-like seed very common during her childhood, which gives it that exotic flavor and unique aroma; chocolate, because she is a fierce defender of Venezuelan cacao; parchita, where she gets her favorite juice; and mango, a fruit abundantly found in Caracas.
The Araguaney trunk is handmade from a chocolate base and the foliage is made of cotton candy with parchita flavor.
“When I presented the dessert to the brothers (Joan, Jordi and Josep) they literally peeled their eyes, and customers were delighted because no one imagined receiving a tree as dessert. It is the best way to express to the world the feeling and sense of being Venezuelan, “recalls Locantore.
To achieve her creations, she gains inspiration from sayings, landscapes or visions. “That’s why, when I’m not in the kitchen, I ride my mountain bike or I go to the beach, even in winter. “If I don’t see the sea, I feel that I die”, she comments.
Other desserts with this ocean flavor are the Margarita and the Higuerote (names of coastal Venezuelans villages) that she will showcase soon.
ANGELICA LOCANTORE: HER CUISINE IN THE FUTURE
“My proposal includes flavors that are more Venezuelan than European because I want my pastry to be described as tasty, balanced, memory-evoking, and I want each bite to bring memories of my Venezuela”, emphasizes the pastry chef.
This young woman intends to install a pastry school in her country to rescue national flavors.
“Throughout my desserts, I will continue to tell the world that Venezuelans will reunite with what is genuine, with our roots, and that we will stamp our courage and our feelings in our work, because Venezuela will be better than before”.
Once her internships were over, another great opportunity knocked on her door. She moved to France to work with the well-known and controversial Michel Bras.
Angelica defines this moment as “another opportunity from God”. She tells us that those months helped her develop “a sufficiently high mental stamina”. “I had to deal with the demands, the fast pace and, above all, I had to concentrate”.