Native Cuisine of a New Order

As an exclusive sneak preview into FOUR’s latest International edition, Andrea Petrini discovers primitive dishes formed from wild products of micro–agriculture in Chile…

“You would never say it, but they are mutant seaweeds, like lianas, but bigger, that grow on the rocks. When they are cooked they remind you of the taste of Jerusalem artichoke mixed with scallops.”

Some very important advice: next time you fly to Santiago, cross the threshold of BORAGó, Rodolfo Guzman’s restaurant. There you should ask to speak with Tommy, the loyal sous chef. If he is too busy, approach Sergio Meza, considered the alter ego of Guzman, because of his creative panache.Native Cuisine of a New Order

Negotiate discreetly with him, in a corner of the long kitchen, which is separated from the dining room by means of a rectilinear large window, as if it were a token of absolute transparency. Find some room in the crazy crowd made up of about 15 busy people. You will recognise Rodolfo immediately. His hair is flattened and pulled backwards or with ringlets wilting on his forehead. His back is bowed and his gestures are meticulous. He stands in the middle of the room, his muscles contorted as he plates dishes. It is worse than a block of nerves. A marble slab. As always, he is full of concentration.

An image that reflects the total accuracy of his cuisine, which is physical like few others; though it has an uncommon concept. When, at the end of service, you look into his fatigued eyes, you feel all his faintness, the change from tension to relief, the temporary gratification of the constantly shifting goal. Rodolfo—Rudy to his friends—reminds me of Pierre Gagnaire when he was just starting his career.

Guzman is 35-years-old, but he is already at the helm of a great project. He does not want to turn BORAGó into the restaurant ‘par excellence’ in his city, but to do like his mates Alex Atala (D.O.M., S São Paulo) and Virgilio Martínez (Central, Lima): to promote and update the Latin American nouvelle vague. The slogan is: endemic cuisine. The cuisine at the end of the world, from the other side of the world. For Guzman, this means the contingency of a country with its incomparable fortune, that is still not very well known.

“Chile is ready, it opens out to the world’s cultures. But it is still ignorant of its deep mysteries, of the wild vegetation, of the many endemic cultures that survive, miles and miles away, without any sort of exchange of views, without any comparison.” He did not say it officially, we take full responsibility of what we say, but Rodolfo Guzman has been dreaming of a project, concerning the emergence of the nation: ‘The Minga Project’.

“Have you heard about Minga? They are our typical wood houses, built on wheels and allowing the residents to move away depending on the season. Such moves take place during a sort of collective party— the houses are dragged by oxen and horses, or placed on a boat—the whole community attends this event. It is our version of transhumance, an experiment of nomadism that we have in our blood. A symbol of mobility, of the interdisciplinary nature of our project that will connect all cultures, producers, chefs, scientists, anthropologists and researchers coming from the four corners of our country and from the neighbouring countries, in Lima at the end of 2014.

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