The finer things in life should be savoured in style

As­cend­ing culi­nary star RODOLFO GUZMÁN of the award-win­ning Bor­agó in San­ti­ago re­leases the first high-end gas­tron­omy cook­book in English by a Chilean chef


“MANY PEO­PLE SAY that times have changed, that ev­ery­thing has be­come more ex­pen­sive.

The cost of rent­ing a place to es­tab­lish a restau­rant in a ma­jor city has sky­rock­eted and food has be­come costlier, while our free time has de­creased. It is also com­mon to hear that lux­ury restau­rants will dis­ap­pear and that most peo­ple will eat at bistros, or at cheaper but still so­phis­ti­cated places.”

So says fast-ris­ing culi­nary star chef Rodolfo Guzmán, who helms San­ti­ago, Chile's Bor­agó, which finds it­self on the World's 50 Best Restau­rants list among an il­lus­tri­ous, ex­clu­sive group in Latin Amer­ica that in­cludes Peru's Cen­tral, Maido and Astrid y Gastón, Brazil's D.O.M, Ar­gentina's Tegui, and Mex­ico's Pu­jol and Quin­tonil. He finds the sen­ti­ments of con­tem­po­rary times both con­fus­ing and con­tra­dic­tory. “What is lux­ury?” he asks. “How do fine-din­ing restau­rants around the world op­er­ate? Th­ese are im­por­tant fac­tors to con­sider, and they func­tion dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on the con­text and the cul­ture.”

Guzmán out­lines the cru­cial el­e­ments for any es­tab­lish­ment, also serv­ing as a man­i­festo of his life's work: “Restau­rants should be ca­pa­ble of mod­i­fy­ing an en­vi­ron­ment and an en­tire com­mu­nity, as well as al­ter­ing or im­prov­ing the per­cep­tion of food, com­mu­ni­cat­ing a mes­sage through the food that is con­sumed daily. They are also ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing knowl­edge and trans­mit­ting

it, enriching tra­di­tions and in­ter­act­ing with the ter­ri­tory in a sea­sonal fash­ion. They have a per­fect un­der­stand­ing of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of sea­son­al­ity, and es­tab­lish a strong bond with farm­ers and fish­er­men.” He ex­plains that such places are rare, but that they should be the tar­get for all. “They are sin­gu­larly ca­pa­ble of im­prov­ing the lives of peo­ple, and gen­er­at­ing and dis­sem­i­nat­ing knowl­edge.”

Bor­agó, now be­ing cel­e­brated in a new ti­tle (to be re­leased on Novem­ber 6) by book pub­lisher Phaidon, is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily game-chang­ing restau­rant with a phi­los­o­phy to match. Be­hind it and its ex­pan­sive menu are more than 200 peo­ple, in­clud­ing for­ag­ing com­mu­ni­ties and small pro­duc­ers that span the en­tire length of the coun­try. In this way, Bor­agó re­con­nects Chileans with their culi­nary her­itage and mil­len­nia-old tra­di­tions.

Chile had some­thing of an im­age cri­sis when Guzmán started out. “In 2006 and 2007, when I first started to serve th­ese new in­gre­di­ents at Bor­agó, lux­ury in­gre­di­ents were be­ing im­ported,” he ex­plains. “What­ever came from within Chile was con­sid­ered to be of lesser qual­ity.” When din­ers from San­ti­ago asked about the coun­try of ori­gin of the in­gre­di­ents, they couldn't be­lieve it was lo­cally grown pro­duce. “We were cham­pi­oning a new Chilean cui­sine and ideas never be­fore ex­plored.” Since the time Spa­niards colonised the ter­ri­tory in the 16th cen­tury, Guzmán feels that his fel­low coun­try­men have tried to em­u­late ev­ery­thing Euro­pean. “We never tried to just be Chileans and we never both­ered to de­velop that feel­ing of na­tional pride un­til re­cently,” he ex­plains. “That's what I wanted to change at Bor­agó.”

Thus, rather than im­port white truf­fles cost­ing more than US$4,000, for ex­am­ple, he used white straw­ber­ries from the Chilean city of Purén that cost less than US$20 per kilo. “Na­ture didn't put the prices on things – we did – and both in­gre­di­ents were equally amaz­ing,” he says. “For me, the added value in white straw­ber­ries from Purén is that they are an en­demic in­gre­di­ent.”

This is the path of a broader Latin Amer­i­can move­ment, with its fa­mous bri­gadier gen­er­als in­clud­ing Gastón Acu­rio, Alex Atala, Vir­gilio Martínez and En­rique Olvera. Each of them is at the root of an in­tro­spec­tive jour­ney, from Peru to Mex­ico and on to Brazil, in search of the land of their

ori­gins, cross­ing re­con­dite districts—from the Ama­zon jun­gle to the steep An­dean high­lands, and from the trop­i­cal coast to the most de­serted Mex­i­can back­coun­try. Th­ese chefs re­turn from their trips laden with tantric ex­pe­ri­ences and new chal­lenges. In­gre­di­ents that had never been doc­u­mented are now on ge­o­graph­i­cal maps.

Bor­agó's cui­sine is em­bed­ded within Chile's ex­treme ter­rain – the An­des moun­tain range, the cold waters of the Pa­cific Ocean, the Ata­cama Desert, icy glaciers and lush forests. Util­is­ing in­dige­nous mush­rooms, wild fruits, sea­weeds and suc­cu­lents, Guzmán es­chews any in­gre­di­ent non-na­tive to this part of the world in or­der to ex­plore new pos­si­bil­i­ties in cook­ing and flavours. The re­sult is the restau­rant's dy­namic, wildly imag­i­na­tive de­gus­ta­tion menu: Endémica.

In the Bor­agó book, Guzmán de­scribes the flavours, in­gre­di­ents and tech­niques that have be­come his sig­na­tures – from de­vis­ing his own fer­men­ta­tion process us­ing Chilean sea­weeds or wild fruits to ex­per­i­ment­ing with a tra­di­tional Chilean roast­ing rack for his Patag­o­nian lamb dish. In the book's in­tro­duc­tion, Guzmán rem­i­nis­cences about the mouth-wa­ter­ing an­tic­i­pa­tion of wait­ing for his mother's desserts as a child; sweet dishes,

ice creams in par­tic­u­lar, have also been im­por­tant for the restau­rant since its early days.

An­doni Luis Aduriz, one of the most in­flu­en­tial chefs of our times (at Spain's Mu­garitz, where he worked with Guzmán) and a for­mer con­fi­dante of Fer­ran Adrià's at El Bulli, has writ­ten a mov­ing fore­word to the up­com­ing book, which reads thus:

“It can be dif­fi­cult to pi­lot a project that seeks to open new op­por­tu­ni­ties be­yond the com­fort­able top­ics and space of what has al­ready been es­tab­lished. Build­ing has al­ways been costlier than de­stroy­ing, in the same way that con­ceiv­ing a new hori­zon is harder than judg­ing. In line with this, the word un­der­take, for me and for many oth­ers, is laden with merit, not to men­tion hero­ism.”

“Guzmán opened his restau­rant a decade ago, imag­in­ing the pos­si­bil­ity be­yond just do­ing things well. He cre­ated a new re­al­ity, uni­fy­ing the con­cepts of re­newal and gen­uine. Be­yond the flavours and prod­ucts that have rep­re­sented Chile, there are other in­gre­di­ents that, al­though they are Chilean, were dis­carded due to dis­af­fec­tion or lack of knowl­edge. The re­sult of all that ef­fort is to­day's Bor­agó, one of the best restau­rants in the world, a centre of cre­ation that can boast of hav­ing been es­tab­lished on a great deal of pas­sion and ef­fort de­spite the in­dif­fer­ence of many. This is no small mat­ter, be­cause there is no ad­ver­sary more pre­pared to ne­gate qual­i­fied cook­ing than scep­ti­cism. Even with this, the most im­por­tant work done by Bor­agó, through­out th­ese years, has orig­i­nated out­side the stove and cut­ting board.”

“Guzmán's ideas and re­flec­tions reach the pub­lic with the de­sire to change re­al­ity and take on a new mean­ing of food. One of the un­der­ly­ing qual­i­ties of cook­ing is that it is a tool for trans­for­ma­tion. The most ob­vi­ous is that when cook­ing, the food's form and prop­er­ties are mod­i­fied, and when that food in turn is in­gested, it changes us. Rodolfo and his team have con­tin­ued to mark the path of change with sweet­ness and de­ter­mi­na­tion while they fill their world with dwelled words, laden with hori­zons and strong in­ten­tions. They write: ‘We at­tempt to look back in or­der to walk for­ward, to con­nect our past with a pos­si­ble fu­ture of Chilean cook­ing, through learn­ing and knowl­edge of our ter­ri­tory and of our bio­di­ver­sity, as well as the cul­ture of our na­tive peo­ples, the root of our ori­gin.'”

Aduriz's fore­word, and in­deed this book, at­tests to Guzmán's grand vi­sion. Bor­agó's wings are quiv­er­ing and the ef­fect is glob­al­is­ing. Wher­ever you are, en­joy the ride.

“A restau­rant should be ca­pa­ble of mod­i­fy­ing an en­vi­ron­ment and an en­tire com­mu­nity, im­prov­ing the lives of peo­ple, and gen­er­at­ing and dis­sem­i­nat­ing knowl­edge”

Clock­wise from above: Sea urchin from Quin­tay with black luga, ch­agual and veg­etable milk; chef Rodolfo Guzmán; mush­rooms ageing at 3,500 me­tres in the An­des; fer­mented pewén chupe

Clock­wise from far lower left: Black Flower; chupones; sea straw­ber­ries; the Ata­cama Desert in Chile

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