Chilean Chef Rodolfo Guzman: Cooking on the Edge of the World, Part 3

Chef Guzman expounds on his culinary mission to broaden his guest’s palates and open their minds to new gastronomic experiences

“It’s delightful to see the pleasure and surprise on their faces when they experience a new taste and love it.”

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

The Daily Meal: In the quest for novelty or publicity, by introducing outrageous or extreme proteins are chefs ignoring these health consequences or not doing adequate investigation before introducing these on their menus?
Chef Rodolfo Guzman: It is a real concern that we need to look at while finding alternative foods in order to feed growing populations. The biggest challenge I feel is going to be to learn in real about food. We ourselves are reintroducing foods that were used in the past and have a history of being healthy and safe to use. The indigenous people lived long healthy lives based on these foods. We don't just go out and pick things that will look good on a plate; we question everything and are aware of the risks. You can die from eating a wrong mushroom picked up in a forest. At least in the sea you don't find dangerous or poisonous seaweed or fish. I feel it is almost as if the sea is telling us to find our food in the water.

Are the younger chefs more receptive to using these unknown or new ingredients?
The older generation is certainly more cautious about new ingredients. I feel that as cooks we should be able to cook delicious food using any available ingredients. In the future I feel we are going to pay more attention to the sea and look for more of our food there. The plant based diet is also going to become more important in our future.

As an example, seaweed has been a major part of the diet in Asian cultures but not so much in the west. Are cultural influences an impediment in this food revolution or evolution process and do you see this resistance in your restaurant?
Of course we do. It's a mental thing for example a Japanese guest in our restaurant has a different experience from an Argentinian. Their cultural preferences and context are different and they have different food memories. There is no such food that we don't really like it’s just that we have preconceived idea about it and have decided not to like or eat it. We need to be open to experiment and if you get used to seaweed you will find a new world of taste. Seaweed is all about umami! In Chile we have more kinds of seaweed than anywhere else and there is a wide range of flavors, textures and taste. We have to learn how to treat them to get the best out of them. We are fortunate that our guests come prepared to taste and enjoy what we serve them and are ready for a new experience.

You have cooked and trained in many places, but who has influenced your work the most?
For me to have the opportunity to work with Andoni Aduriz at Mugaritz was a big influence and good training. I started to explore and do many different things and people now talk about foraging etc. but we were foraging in the Basque countryside in 2004 when I was there. I have to say the biggest influence not only in my kitchen but on my whole life has been the Mapuche culture.


What proportion of your guests are local and how many are international since now you have a lot of Gastro tourists coming to Chile?
It is hard to say and it really depends on the season. We were experiencing ups and downs till 2012 but now it is a new experience for us to be busy all the time. Boragó was a new kind of restaurant even for Chileans and not really given a lot of attention by gastronomic journalists. Chileans are now very proud of our venture and it is a really cool phenomenon locally. All the international media attention is of course drawing a lot of people to Boragó now. In the months of June and July 80 percent of our guests were Chilean and this was the first year that this happened. Now in this season maybe 60 percent are international while 40 percent are local.