Daring to surprise and captivate Latin American palates by means of an avant-garde cuisine is not a simple matter, especially when the result also attracts the most demanding patrons from other continents. Hours of research surrounded by seasonings, knives and stoves play the leading role in the creativity and versatility shown by the most outstanding Latin American chefs, who have been praised by important publications and international gastronomic awards. This group of cooks is committed to haute cuisine and their dishes speak of the personality, culinary savoir faire and cultural identity of their countries.
Alex Atala, Brazil, owner of D.O.M
Penciled in as the ambassador of Brazilian cuisine, Atala has had the bravery to practice “a conceptual cuisine in terms of tastes, colors, textures and essences,” just as he defines it. Atala’s offers are characterized by the use of Brazilian ingredients, as well as autochthonous tastes from the Amazonia.
After having lived in Europe since he was 18 years old, he returned to Brazil in 1994 and, in 1999, Atala opened his D.O.M restaurant, described as the 3rd finest restaurant in Latin America according to San Pellegrino list. “In D.O.M (acronym of Latin Dominus Optimus Maximus) our work targets surprise, fear and discovery. People have an emotional side working with taste,” Atala explains.
Enrique Olvera, Mexico, owner of Pujol
Many people think that he’s the best chef of Mexico and one of the most influential figures in the country, who has awaken the interest in the new Mexican cuisine and has reinterpreted the Mexican culinary heritage. His first steps into the gastronomic realm were taken at New York’s Culinary Institute of America en Nueva York. In 2000 Olvera opened his Pujol restaurant, ranked as the sixth best Latin American restaurant according to S. Pellegrino and positioned among the top 50 of the world, by British Restaurant magazine.
Supported by his brother, Olvera has built a gastronomic company in the broadest sense of the word, which includes cuisine workshop, tasting sessions, books, banquets for events and Eno cafeteria and gourmet store, with several branches throughout the Mexican capital.
Besides Pujol, Maíz de Mar as opened in 2013, serving ceviche at Playa del Carmen; and a year later he inaugurated Cosme in New York. Just a few months after the opening, it was distinguished with the three stars given by New York Times’critics.
Virgilio Martinez, Peru, owner of Central
The prestigious chef, whose Central restaurant was once again ranked fourth on the 50 Best Restaurants list and number one in Latin America, started washing carrots and broccolis, shelling clams and opening oysters during a short stay in Scotland. He took his first steps as a cook at Ottawa’s Le Cordon Bleu, Canada, and he later moved to London. After his graduation, Martinez explored cuisines of France, Italy, London, Asia and New York. He participated in the first project developed by Gaston Acurio in Lima, so he was later appointed executive chef of Astrid & Gaston in Bogota, followed by Madrid.
At Central, Martinez combines his talent with a rigorous research process and the use of 100 percent Peruvian products, so he applies different culinary techniques in order to invite patrons to travel to the rich Inca culture.
Fernando Rivarola, Argentina, owner of El Baqueano
Rivarola, creator of “Cuisine without Borders” project so cooks from around the world can exchange experiences, products and traditions applied to culinary arts, stands for contemporary autochthonous gastronomy.
His proposal is based on alternative or non-traditional meats from 23 Argentinean provinces, such rhea, viscacha, wild boars, deers, llama and cayman, as well as river fish and ingredients from all the regions of the country. He has discovered that the best side dish can be prepared with the vegetables usually eaten by those animals.
His restaurant, El Baqueano, occupies the 18th position in 2015 San Pellegrino’s ranking.
Rodolfo Guzman, Chile, manager Bogaro
Guzman’s singular work on stoves is characterized by endemic cuisine, two season menus and a craft technique to serve and cook on volcanic rocks, smoked with different kinds of wood and mud ovens.
In 2011, Bogaro was included in WbpStars guide as one of the best sixty restaurants of the world and in 2015 San Pellegrino ranked it fifth among the top 50 of Latin America.
Although Chile is not one of the greatest culinary powers of the region, Guzman’s interest in exploring the Chilean biodiversity has helped him use in his kitchen from native mushroom from the south of the country to herbs that grow in Los Andes.