Big City Chefs Rediscovering Local Ingredients, Colombia-Style
Top chefs in Bogotá and other big cities in Colombia are rediscovering and updating the country's traditional fare to celebrate local ingredients.
BOGOTÁ — Travelers to Paris, Tokyo or Madrid aren't expecting to eat hot dogs when they visit those cities. Food is an essential part of any travel experience, and more so if you are eating for fun, so your menu really must be a typical, intrinsic part of the local landscape.
When people visit Colombia they are not looking for high-end salmon or French-style foie gras, because these are not the local fare. If you find them here, they were imported, and even if someone is producing them, you can't find the same quality, or those essential, cultural and environmental ties between any traditional food and its place of origin.
Concerns like these have led to the rise in recent decades of movements like Slow Food and other local food initiatives, which seek healthier and more nutritious foods with a strong connection to a particular landscape, culture and community. And this is particularly true in Colombia.
Cook preparing meat in Colombia for a restaurant
Chefs leaving big cities
In the past decade, some of the gastronomy world's biggest prizes and awards have gone to restaurants and chefs who offer local and traditional foods, reuse ingredients, cut waste or use strictly traceable ingredients. The idea is to make the farm-to-table chain as short and local as possible, ideally with no more than one or two links between producer and consumer.
Travelers are divorced from their host destination and its customs.
Perhaps one of the greatest attractions of a travel destination is the opportunity to enjoy slow-cooked, home-style meals, typically mixing traditional know-how with some modern techniques. These might be the fare to serve a group of diners, in a setting that recalls a home, a family meal or get-together with friends.
It's a style that makes the restaurant a crucial feature of local tourism and linked in many ways to local prosperity, social life and culture. It also goes in the face of a type of unchecked tourism seen in many places, where travelers are divorced from their host destination and its customs.
This has led many Colombian chefs, after the pandemic, to leave the big cities where they rose to prominence and head for smaller towns, where they are consciously promoting and developing local cuisine.
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