From its jungles to its deserts: the newly crowned best female chef in the world, Leonor Espinosa, draws inspiration from Colombia’s vast biodiversity and painful history.
“My cooking tastes of relegated cultures, of forgotten regions, it tastes of ancestral techniques, of smoke…of pain,” the 59-year-old said after being voted the world’s best female chef 2022. by the prestigious UK food and drink. consulting firm William Reed, which elects the 50 best restaurants in the world.
“It also tastes of joy, plantain, cassava, earth after the rain, a desert ecosystem. There is a lot of poetry in my cooking.”
The taste for social change
She is not only a cook, but also an activist, having traveled to every corner of her homeland to study indigenous cuisine and give voice to people who feel abandoned in areas ravaged by poverty and decades of violence.
Naming Espinosa its winner, the Top 50 jury described her as a “multi-talented Colombian chef who marries art, politics and gastronomy.”
His restaurant named “Leo” in the Colombian capital, Bogota, features flavors from all over the country, especially from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
“She has forged a unique, cerebral and profound cuisine that sets her apart from her contemporaries, at the same time as she seeks to use gastronomy as a tool for socio-economic development”, declared the 50 Best Restaurants jury.
Espinosa grew up in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia and learned to cook.
She studied economics and the arts and worked in advertising before jumping into cooking at the age of 35.
In 2017, she was named Best Female Chef in Latin America.
To give her restaurant its typical indigenous-infused menu, she traveled all over Colombia to document its culinary history.
She incorporates many traditional ingredients into her repertoire – everything from exotic fruits and Andean tubers to ants and grubs.
The world of haute cuisine has always been a predominantly male-dominated industry, but Espinosa has become a global benchmark for other aspiring cooks.
She hopes to continue using her cooking to promote the socio-economic development of the poorest regions of Colombia.
Watch the video above to see Espinosa’s cooking skills in action