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Rediscovering Chilean ingredients and cuisine


05-30-2016 13:16 BJT

Traditional Chilean cuisine is notable for its variety of flavours and ingredients, due to the country's wide range of agricultural produce, fruits and vegetables. But the rise of international cuisine has pushed ancient recipes and ingredients aside. We take a look at how one Chilean chef is reviving the culinary scene with age-old Chilean dishes.

On this beach in Chile, where most people only see sand and waves, Rodolfo Guzman finds the raw materials for his craft.

Fish, algae, seaside fruits and plants are some of the flavors that interest this young Chilean chef, who doesn’t exclude any ingredient as long as it comes from his country. Some Chilean products have been ignored by gastronomy, he says, but are just waiting to be cooked.

"This is a sea strawberry, it’s a halophyte that grows directly on the rocks, it doesn’t need earth. It has the same smell, it tastes like a strawberry, but it’s salty," Rodoleo Guzman, chef with Borago Restaurant, said.

In his laboratory, upstairs from his restaurant, Borago, Guzman experiments and fine tunes the dishes that appear on his menu. Some recipes, inspired by the ancestral cuisine of the indigenous Mapuches, change according to the season and ingredients available.

"The Mapuche people say this: when you cook, someone harvests. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t claim to make something as they did 4,000 years ago, but we are trying to transmit the same thing," Guzman said.

After several decades of cooking with an eye towards international cuisine, Chile seems to be rediscovering its own gastronomy, with more and more restaurants restoring honor to traditional and popular dishes.

"In Chile, we have excellent products from the coast, the Cordillera valley, which we have in excess, but because we have too many we see them in a negative light. Today, I think that the chefs are against interested by home cooking, family cooking, and giving value to these products we have from the coast and the valley, which have been there forever," Axel Mariquez, executive chef with Hotel Plaza San Francisco, said.

After a few tough years, Borago now has a packed house. In 2015, British magazine “Restaurant” ranked it a prestigious 2nd best in Latin America, showing that often the best flavors are right in our own backyard.

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