Chilean Chef Rodolfo Guzman: Cooking on the Edge of the World, Part 2

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Chef Guzman shares his deep knowledge and passion for ancient Latin American foodways with The Daily Meal
Rodolfo Guzman

Rodolfo Guzman

“We have a very contemporary approach to food and all we are doing is moving these techniques from the past to the present.”

This is the second installment in a three-part interview with chef Rodolfo Guzman. You can find the first installment here and the third installment here.

The Daily Meal: You are transforming Chilean traditions in your work. Why is it important to you?
Chef Rodolfo Guzman: Traditions are beautiful but if to those you can add knowledge you can move traditions to the next step. Then we can create something even more interesting for the future.

What is unique about Boragó? Should diners be ready for the unexpected?
I have thought our guests experience new flavors which are new to them and they have no prior food memories of. Our ingredients are unique, super seasonal and expose them to novel concepts and make dining here a unique experience.

Your cooking style has been described as one of reviving ancient techniques and using traditional and forgotten ingredients. How are you linking these old stories to new stories on your plates?
I want to specify that it is what we are trying to do whether we are successful in this or not we don't know. The restaurant opened nine years ago in a country that has influences from every culture that came here like the Spanish. At that time not the best things but most things perceived as good were coming from outside the country. So we were adapting to these influences and products and ignoring our own culture. The indigenous Mapuchas are one of the oldest native cultures in South America having been around 12,400 years or so long before the Spaniards or the Incas.

In 2006 we started our work at Boragó by concentrating on products growing in specific areas of Chile, a part of our Mapuche heritage. Most of our recipes are based on native ingredients so we are looking back in time while moving forward. We want to say we are Chileans and we have a diversity of ingredients with a lot of possibility behind them. We started doing a tasting menu based only on these ingredients and ancient cooking methods of Mapuches, real Chilean preparations.

Are these ingredients seasonal?
Yes some of them grow only for a few months or weeks or maybe even one week during the year. We wait for these to appear for very traditional preparations. We work with over 200 small producers and foragers to supply us through a huge chain. I traveled a lot all over the country and built relationships with these people, some of whom are Mapuches. When you come to the restaurant you don't see these people but the truth is without them we cannot prepare or serve the food that we do. These relationships didn't develop overnight but are the result of nine years of work.

While exploring this biodiversity of the Chilean landscape, is there risk of over using or exploiting some of these products or species?
There are so many things involved in this process and you have to be very responsible, work with the right people, and be very conscious of the impact on the environment and ecosystem. Fortunately here in Chile the seafood is well protected and regulated by law. We have a huge sustainable movement. In order to have these resources in the future we are very protective.

How are you incorporating these ancient cooking practices in your cuisine?
We are not pretending to cook like they did 2,000 years ago. We have a very contemporary approach to food and all we are doing is moving these techniques from the past to the present.

Related Links
An Interview with Bertrand Grebaut of Paris’ Septime, Part 1Chef Diego Muñoz: Running the Show at Astrid y Gaston, Part 1Andoni Aduriz of Spain’s Mugaritz: Exposing Food Ideas, Part 1Chef Ana Ros of Slovenia: Emerging Gastronomy, Part 1Chilean Chef Rodolfo Guzman: Cooking on the Edge of the World, Part 3