If Panama stands out on the culinary map of Latin America, it’s to a great degree due to the work of Mario Castrellón. He is the head chef and owner of Maito and Humo, two restaurants that are setting the trend for new forms of Panamanian cuisine. As a leader in his generation of chefs, his work has set a before and after in his country’s gastronomic tradition and its relationship to the local products that provide it with character. He has worked with the native communities who live in the two jungles at the country’s borders—Bocas del Toro in the north and Darien in the south. This relationship has begun to bear fruit as rediscovered products have made their way to the most dedicated kitchens as well as to some of the markets in the capital. His support of street food vendors has given value to the local fondas and his work extends to coffee, through the three locations of Café Unido.
Eduardo Martínez has had an interest in the countryside and its farmers since he was a child. He was a farmer himself in adolescence. Now, an agricultural engineer with 19 years’ experience as a chef, gastronomic researcher and the head of various projects promoting and giving value to Colombian cuisine nationally and internationally. He is a founding partner and head chef of mini mal, "surprisingly Colombian contemporary cuisine", since 2001. Chef at El Panóptico restaurant at the Colombian National Museum. He is a pioneer and a promoter of the value of local Colombian cuisine, its ingredients and traditions. Director of sustainable development projects with the country’s diverse traditional cultures, with a basis on the rescue, recognition, appreciation and appropriation of the culture and its values. A researcher of the traditional productive systems of the tropical rainforests of the Pacific and the Amazon, of studies and methodologies for rural land management and the analysis family-farmer economies in different parts of the country. Teacher of Colombian cuisine and a promoter of the recovery, strengthening and positioning of its heritage in the market stalls of Bogota. A member of Slow Food since 2006.
Paulo Machado is a very dedicated apprentice in many different fields. He earned a law degree and a postgraduate degree in Environmental Law, has worked in film festivals and, a little over seven years ago, decided to dedicate himself to one of his great passions: gastronomy. He went through different stages and jobs at restaurants at home and abroad. He pursued research, for which he travels extensively in order to get to know new flavors, and it is his vocation to bring the knowledge that he gains to his students. He’s visited France, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uruguay and Peru among others in order to show the flavors of the Tupiquin people. In 2008 he won the first UAM & Colavita Italian Cooking Competition, and served as the first research director of the country’s first Center for the Investigation of Brazilian Gastronomy, sponsored by Nestlé Foodservices. In 2009, his Pantanal Scientific Studies Project was financed by the Mato Grosso do Sul Cultural Investment Fund. Today, this material is part of the heritage belonging to the Fundaçao de Cultura do Mato Grosso do Sul, and it contains a document with fifty recipes and wisdom from the region’s cuisine. A professor of Gastronomy, he teaches in various national and international universities, and he also teaches in Gastromotiva, a vocational education program in Sao Paulo. He’s participated in three national publications launched in 2011 and in various newspaper and book projects about brazilian cuisine. Additionally, he is a part of the Slow Food movement for good, clean and fair food. In 2010 he opened the Paulo Machado Institute for research in gastronomy, with the objective of investing and offering classes, seminars, and consulting work in the field. The institute also promotes the event "Arte na Figueira", which combines art and gastronomy in the Brazilian midwest.
A native of Puerto Ayacucho, in the Venezuelan Amazon, and of Baré descendancy, Nelson Mendez’s professional culinary career begins when, obeying to vocation, he decides to work in a restaurant in Ciudad Bolivar in order to pay for his schooling in Hospitality. In 1984 he enters university and settles in Caracas. There he becomes a part of the kitchen of Hotel Tamanaco Internacional under Franz Müller, a french-trained German chef with an iron character. Through this experience, he strengthened his passion for cleanliness, attention to detail and excellence. A year and a half later, he begins work under Wolfgang Enkel at the old Hilton Hotel in Caracas, growing under the demands and the high technical standards of the best Caracas hotels of the 1980s. In 1988 he joins the team at the Hotel Ritz, also in Caracas, and shortly thereafter goes on to become the principal chef, once again under the tutelage of Müller. He remained there for fifteen years and then went on to successfully take over the kitchen at Biarritz Bistró. There, he shared his experience and knowledge with Expedita Palacios, an excellent Venezuelan cook. In 1998, he begins to develop his grand proposal: Venezuelan cuisine from Amazonian ingredients, thus returning to his roots. Nelson has established himself as one of the great amazonian chefs by working the ingredients from the rainforest with techniques from haute cuisine, always careful to highlight the value of the productive models used by the people of the Venezuelan Amazon. He develops gastronomic products applying the latest technology and ancestral knowledge. He has turned his fifteen years of experience investigating the amazonian pantry into a book of his own authorship, "Saberes y Sabores de la Gastronomía Indígena del Estado Amazonas", and into the co-authorship of the books "Influencias y mestizaje en la cultura gastronómica venezolana", "Gente que hace escuela" and "El Rol de la Agricultura en la Recuperación del Patrimonio Gastronómico Venezolano".
El Baqueano is a small and simple restaurant in San Telmo (Buenos Aires), far from the traditional circuit of porteño cuisine. From within its kitchen, Fernando Rivarola and Gabriela Lafuente are setting the rhythm for a new generation of chefs committed to the creation of a culinary concept which celebrates the Argentinean pantry. His work, the most notable in the country’s culinary scene, involves everything from reintegrating Andean products, to recuperating fish from the Paraná basin, to using native game like yacare or rhea, which regularly appear on his menu.
More than a restaurant, Tordesilhas (Cerqueira Cesar, São Paulo) is an artisanal culinary space dedicated to examining the traditional Brazilian cookbook and celebrating the ingredients that give it life. It is the result of Mara Salles’s passion. A first-rate chef and a tireless investigator, she is discovering ingredients and salvaging recipes in order to transform them and adapt through contemporary culinary techniques.
Mara spent her childhood in a farm in Sao Paulo’s countryside. Her father was a farmer. Her mother took care of the children, the food, the chickens and the pigs. She made cheese and tended the garden.
In this environment, she received her first cooking lessons, developing a taste for good products and a close relationship with nature. She was the first chef to use ingredients from the Amazon and the Cerrado in her menu. She is a teacher and an inspiration to the young people currently in the market. She contributed her investigations to the award-winning book Ambiências.
Together with well-known Brazilian leaders, she’s participated in numerous conferences, festivals and gastronomic gatherings, nationally and internationally, but she considers that the relevance of her work lies mainly in the contact with the most deeply peripheral people of Brazil.
Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is a chef who has received recognition for his commitment to investigation and the use of ingredients from the Peruvian Amazon in haute cuisine. In his effort to innovate through these ingredients and flavors, Pedro Miguel represents the “new gastronomic revolution” coming from the Amazonian pantry. Using everything from exotic fruits to the fish that inhabit the lakes and rivers of the planet’s richest ecosystem, Schiaffino explores biodiversity and his country’s natural resources in order to create contemporary dishes that bring life to his stunning signature cuisine.
Schiaffino was educated at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), in New York and at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners (ICIF) in Castiglioni d’Asti, Piedmont. He then worked in various Italian restaurants before returning to Peru, restaurants like Dal Pescatore (Canneto sul’Oglio, Mantova), La Locanda dell'Angelo (Ameglia, La Spezia) and El Pinocchio (Borgomanero, Novara), this last one run by Piero Bertinotti, whom he considers an important influence in his cooking.
In 2006, the Government of the Republic of Peru awarded him the “Manka” prize for his contribution to the development of gastronomy. His restaurant MALABAR’s creativity was highlighted by Food & Wine magazine as one of the twenty most interesting culinary experiences in the world, and in 2010 his bar was selected as one of the top ten in the world by this same publication. In this same year, the International Academy of Gastronomy awarded him the Chef L’Avenir prize.
Besides his work in MALABAR, he currently runs his catering company, Schiaffino Gastronomica. He is a Food and Beverages advisor for the Aqua Expeditions luxury cruise line, which navigates the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru. In 2012 he opened the restaurant Amaz in the Peruvian capital, whose concept and ambiance are entirely centered on the Amazon. Currently, he is also the host of Desde el Jardín, in Plus TV.
Kamilla was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. She studied cooking in København Hotel & Restaurantskolen. She worked in some of the major cuisines of the world, such as the Mugaritz, Manoir Aux 'Quat Saisons, Paustian and Geist.
One day in 2012, Kamilla received an irresistible invitation to travel to Bolivia, where she works every day to make with her work at least a small difference in the lives of many young people who are now on their way to realizing their dreams.
Developing a simple and elegant cuisine, based on respect for the product and the producers that make it possible with their hard work, Kamilla Seidler has received many international awards for his work in Bolivia, where every day she strives to realize a dream called Gustu... a life dedicated to the kitchen, with a voice carrying a message of respect, dignity, pride and equity through food.
With support from: Blue Moon, USAID, Moore Foundation
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A new movement, linking food, conservation and communities is taking shape in the Amazon.
Forest Trends, Canopy Bridge and some of Latin America’s best-known and most influential chefs are looking to use the Amazon’s vast cornucopia of healthy ingredients and traditional cuisines to bring the flavors and nutrition of the rainforest to tables in indigenous villages and big city restaurants, in the process creating new markets and businesses for products that help protect the forest and nurture local communities.
The Amazon´s forests, lands, and waters have for millennia provided a diverse cornucopia of food and ingredients that have transformed biodiversity into gastronomic pleasure - from a log fire in the jungle to some of the best restaurants in the world. Some products, such as cocoa beans and Brazil nuts, are well known worldwide. Others are in the process of expanding more widely into the national and international markets, for example camu camu, açai, sacha inchi, and paicheamongst others. But there is an even greater, almost infinite diversity of species, varieties, ingredients, and uses yet to be discovered in the culturally and biologically rich world of the Amazon. With over 40,000 species of plants, at least 3,000 species of fish, and another 3,000 kinds of fruit, the Amazon pantry is bursting with potential.
This diversity is threatened by pressure from other sorts of food production – soybeans, beef cattle, cocoa plantations, and oil palm – the main drivers of deforestation in the region.
But savoring the products of the rainforest can help save it.
In Latin America, as in the US and Europe, a new food movement is taking shape, with interest in healthy and novel ingredients, and a commitment to origins and supporting producers. A new crop of chefs and food enthusiasts is revitalizing national cultures and turning an enthusiastic and appreciative eye to local ingredients like never before. The boom in food culture has been nothing short of astounding with new restaurants, organic markets, and novel ingredients.
At the vanguard are chefs at standout Latin American restaurants, several ranked as amongst the best in the world, who are redefining national food culture, and increasingly incorporating Amazon ingredients into their offerings. Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, of Lima’s amaZ and Malabar, has been a pioneer in reinterpreting Amazon ingredients in his sophisticated cuisine. Across Latin America, other leading exponents include Paulo Machado, Mara Salles (Tordesilhas) and Thiago Castanho (Remanso do Bosque) in Brazil, Eduardo Martinez (Mini-Mal) in Colombia, Kamilla Seidler and Michelangelo Cestari of Gustu in La Paz, and Peru’s Mitsuharu Tsumura (Maido) and Virgilio Martínez (Central).
These chefs and restaurants are at the forefront, educating their visitors dish by dish, making the Amazon’s biodiversity and extraordinary potential palpable.
Conservation in the Amazon requires society´s fully valuing its diverse ecosystems, both economically and culturally. Chefs and gastronomy can increase awareness and demand for delicious and healthy Amazon foods, creating a new way to value the rainforest and, through partnerships for sustainable sourcing, opening up new economic opportunities for local stewards of biodiversity and cultural traditions and creating new incentives for conservation.
In November 2015, we gathered a remarkable group of chefs, conservation scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, and food writers in the Peruvian Amazon to strategize about how to make gastronomy an agent for change, benefitting forests and local communities in the Amazon. You can see videos of that journey here:
In June 2016, the chefs again joined an eclectic group of creative thinkers at the Aspen Ideas Fest in Colorado, where they showcased their vision to a growing audience through a demonstration dinner and a panel at Spotlight Health on Saving the Amazon through Gastronomy.
Over the coming months we will continue to work together to unlock the potential of Amazon foods to generate new appreciation for the value of the rainforest, and to create new opportunities for local nutrition and sustainable enterprises through two main sets of endeavors:
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