Congreso Internacional de mujeres gastronomía y medio rural


Leo Espinosa unites communities and showcases La Guajira, Colombia

David Salvador


2017's best Latin American chef was at FéminAs to demonstrate the finesse of the two communities making up Colombia's La Guajira region: the indigenous community and the Afro community. Meeting point: goat stew with coconut milk.

One of Latin America's most acclaimed and respected chefs, Leo Espinosa (Leo, Bogotá), kicked off the talks on the second day of the FéminAs congress with a visit to La Guajira in Colombia, South America's northernmost region, "a region unexplored and historically punished by contraband, which has always focused on the Caribbean. A region - explained the chef - with two different communities, an indigenous community (the Wayuu) and Afroamerican descendants”. Two different communities with a connection, and Espinosa connects them in her restaurant with one of the most popular stews: goat.

The chef who uses the FunLeo foundation to showcase Colombia's produce and culture is following this logic, and arrived at FéminAs with horse mackerel, a traditional stew with Tamaca milk, sweet chili peppers, cumin seeds and oregano, "an aromatic citrus recipe" showing off the best produce of La Guajira: oregano and Wayuu goat, Tamaca milk and "achiote" colorant used in the "Afro" community's stews. Leo's restaurant provides an explanation of the recipe and a list of the local ingredients used by both communities "so that tradition is not changed", ingredients which are cooked "to bring out the spirit, as the Afros say".

This, said the winner of Latin America’s Best Female Chef Award 2017, is a bid "to publicise these ingredients and techniques to generate the connection enabling the two communities to move forward". This is what Espinosa strives to do in her restaurant and her foundation. Not for nothing "am I a plastic artist, and cookery is no more than a contemporary artistic manifestation. And, as an artist, I investigate and experiment with different territories such as La Guajira, where I still have much to learn", concluded the chef with a smile.

The chef's work to retrieve and showcase the produce and recipes of several of Colombia's biomes has been rewarded with public acclaim and various listings and awards for her restaurant. Leo is now #27 on the list of Latin America's 50 Best and #40 in the world ranking.