Many of us regularly have a taste of local cuisine—buying local produce or dining at restaurants that use predominantly locally grown ingredients. A new wave of Chilean chefs, however, are taking this concept to a whole new level.
Take chef Rodolfo Guzman, founder and co-owner of restaurant Boragó in Santiago. Guzman has pioneered a new form of cuisine based around plant life found naturally in Chile and ancient cooking techniques used by Chile’s pre-Columbian peoples.
In a restaurant that seats just 50 diners, Boragó has employed as many as 34 people to staff the kitchen. Instead of one head chef, Boragó has five. Twice a week a team of chefs embarks on full day excursions into different pockets of Chile’s rich natural habitat to forage for ingredients.
“We will go up to 4,000 meters in altitude and we are going to serve you a fruit that grows one week a year, a flower salad that grows two days a year, a mushroom that grows some years and doesn’t in others,” Guzman told This is Chile.
“One day we can be at 5,000 meters above sea level, the next on the coast, another in native forests,” Guzman added. The fact that Boragó is physically located in Santiago is irrelevant, Guzman explained. “If you look [at the restaurant] there is nothing—a room with windows, tablecloths, and seats. That’s because Boragó is a platform.”
With a constantly rotating menu that features just a few items each night, the restaurant has made as many as 725 unique dishes in a ten-month span.
Boragó dates back to 2007 and was the first restaurant of its kind in Chile. However, Guzman is delighted by the fact that a new generation of Chilean chefs are shrugging off international and Eurocentric concepts of haute-cuisine and returning to their Chilean roots.
Beyond a Restaurant
While Boragó is an exciting and innovative gastronomical venture in and of itself, the restaurant is also dedicated to achieving a greater social impact. The team designed a line of kitchen clothing made from all organic cotton, the proceeds of which go to an underprivileged school in Chiloé. They’ve also sponsored a line of professional dishware that has a carbon impact ten times less than that of regular porcelain.
Now they’re launching their biggest project of all. The Boragó team, alongside Universidad Católica, is working to gather together all of the information that the restaurant has collected over nearly a decade of cataloguing Chile’s flora into a public online forum.
The project will begin by opening a research and investigation center by the end of June, equipped with an in-depth culinary library and a state-of the art kitchen. By October, their goal is to launch the online platform that will be completely open to the public. The online database will track Chile’s flora by location and by season, providing chefs all over the country with information on how to find, harvest, and prepare the local plantlife.
“We understand what’s happening outside [of Chile], we applaud it and we find it to be fabulous and marvelous,” Guzman described. “But our work is related to our origin, our roots, the identity of a country… that is one-of a kind.”
The Dining Experience
Eating at Boragó is miles away from your traditional dining experience. Their tasting menu, called ‘Endemica’, offers nine different courses, each of which can be accompanied by an alcoholic or nonalcoholic pairing.
Gastronomically-curious guests will delight in tasting ingredients like edible soil, Patagonian rain water, hand-foraged seaweed, and wild berries, and be awed by cooking methods like slow roasting in ashes or simmering over hot volcanic rocks. IN addition to exciting ingredients and preparations, its worth mentioning that the food is simply scrumptious.
Boragó is located outside of central Santiago in Vitacura (Costanera Norte 3467). It opens Monday thru Saturday in the evenings from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The nine-course tasting menu costs around US$66 (CLP 33,000) with an additional US$36 (CLP 18,000) for wine pairing or US$18 (CLP 9,000) for natural fruit juice pairing. You can make reservations through their website or by calling 29538893 or 29538894.
By Gwynne Hogan