When people meet Kamilla Seidler for the first time, they’re often baffled: who is this pale-skinned, blonde-haired Danish woman with perfect Spanish at the helm of Bolivia’s No.1 restaurant? But the unlikely champion of Bolivian cuisine has done more for gastronomy in her adopted country in recent years than any local chef, earning herself the title of “Dane of the Andes”.
Before moving to Bolivia in 2012, Seidler’s cooking career was already on firm footing. She had worked in some of the world’s best kitchens, from Mugaritz in San Sebastián and Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, to locally celebrated restaurants Paustian and Geist in her native Copenhagen.
Now, she runs Gustu together with Michelangelo Cestari, a Venezuelan-born chef whom she met when they worked together at Mugaritz. Seidler handles the cooking and Cestari takes care of the administrative part: “He loves the maths,” says Seidler, “and I prefer to geek out over something on a Silpat”.
Since they arrived in Bolivia their reconnaissance missions have taken them around the country, from the Altiplano to the national park of Madidi where they visited the outskirts to feast on braised monkeys and fluffy-haired wild boar called hochi.
Gustu has an idea, and that idea is a whole country. So the team travels to the Amazons, the mountains, everywhere so they can develop as chefs and at the same time help a country develop.
Keeping a menu 100% Bolivian at the country’s most successful fine dining restaurant is somewhat of a challenge, but it’s one to which Seidler is firmly committed. With a huge sense of responsibility to farmers and producers across the country, she wants to make sure a fair price is always paid and that local workers receive an education as well as an income.
This means developing dishes based on whatever the farmers want to sell, be it not-so-dainty purple potatoes or huge quantities of alligator.
A combination of natural talent and culinary creativity allows Seidler to transform the most basic Bolivian products, like anticuchos, or beef heart skewers, into beautiful dishes fit for the fine dining table.
But her success goes beyond the restaurant and across South America, where she spends time travelling to study and educate people to use the right products responsibly. It’s this combination of culinary skill and social commitment that have helped earn Seidler her reputation as one of the finest cooks in the region and, now, the esteemed title of “Latin America’s Best Female Chef 2016″.
Kamilla Siedler exclusively offers her gastronomic excellence for lectures, food festivals, consultancy, private dining and exclusive dinner parties.
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Hungry for more? Have a look Behind the Scenes.
Read about Kamilla’s impression on receiving the title of Latin America’s Best Female Chef on her own words.
Gustu, housed in an imposing gray concrete cube with a bank of protruding windows, is both a restaurant and an experiment in social uplift.
“In our experience, it’s difficult to connect with the product,” Seidler told the indigenous women. “There’s a market, but we need the connection. Together we can work on the quality.”
Gustu is a fine-dining restaurant, but it is also part of a project with a much more altruistic aim: to rediscover and develop the indigenous food culture in a country where half of the population live in poverty, but where the rich biodiversity offers huge culinary potential.
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Silky palm marrow with crunchy alpaca and poached egg yolk.
Lama tartar with nasturtium, yuca crisps, rice and marrow mayonnaise.
Lamb tail, lamb with ‘chuño’, blackberry and ‘pinta boca’ chips.
Caramelized oca, orange sorbet and banana-vinegar toffee.
Chocolate bizchoco with spicy cocoa garrapiñado and cocoa sorbet.
“Young Danish Chef Seidler possesses a powerful culinary talent, and is fully committed to her mission to turn Gustu into a reference for Bolivian gastronomy.”
– The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.