Chilean Chef Rodolfo Guzman: Cooking on the Edge of the World, Part 2
Are you and your team collecting ingredients while hiking and exploring on a regular basis?
I know that today it's a very trendy thing to go and forage but we do it for a purpose in order to bring the flavors of the landscape to the plate. We are trying to show what Chile and Chilean food is about. One day we could be at 3,000 meters and the next day down at the beach or in the forest. There is a lot of culture behind the use of these ingredients. I want to specify that it's not about where our house is but about the content of our restaurant no matter where it is located. We are constantly learning and exploring for these ingredients which is the future of our planet as we run out of resources.
You think tapping these unused resources or ingredients will be important in the near future?
Yes because we have to find alternate ways to feed us and our children. We cannot keep using the same fish from the ocean as they are disappearing and strangely Mapuches were eating seaweed which is an amazing food source all along. The future of our planet is raw plants and we have to adapt. The waters of the Pacific off our coast are very pristine and the quality of our seafood is amazing. I feel that people around the world are not aware of what Chile is about.
Why the interest in the Atacama Desert?
According to me and our team it is the next frontier and the beginning of a new Chilean food revolution. There are ingredients growing at 3,000 to 5,000 meters that we had no idea about. These ingredients are perfect for regular recipes and can be thrown into whatever you are cooking. By using these we can help a lot of indigenous communities to survive economically who are foraging these and bringing them to Santiago. The bonus is that these products are delicious and have health benefits.
As a parent, what concerns you about the scarcity of resources in the future?
I ask the question, “What is food about? Do we really know enough about food?” I feel we still don't know much about food and need to learn more. There are challenging times coming up for the world and for Chile where I live and we really need to comprehend this. At the restaurant we try to cook delicious food with these original ingredients while learning more about them. We are not pretending to be a special restaurant but just trying to be honest with ourselves. I would say the learning process for us is super important.
Are you investigating the health aspects of ingredients in your test kitchen?
We have been learning a lot from our associations with biologists, doctors, archaeologists, etc. it is the only way to evolve and become knowledgeable about what we are aiming for in our taste. As a cook you evolve from knowing nothing to learning basics of cooking like baking bread, cooking fish, meat or vegetables. That is the first evolution and the second is when you become a parent and start questioning if something is healthy to ingest. These are the questions that we try to learn and investigate for the future. I think about things like mushrooms should I cook it or can I safely serve it raw .We work with an amazing ecologist who has taught us a lot and as a result of what we learnt from her we no longer serve raw mushrooms since 2013 so I can say we are constantly evolving.