The world’s top chefs say it’s only a matter of time before Latin America, home to Brazil’s black bean stew feijoada, Peru’s refreshing raw fish ceviche and Mexico’s street tacos, cooks its way into gastronomy’s elite.
Spanish pastry king Jordi Roca and Danish chef Rene Redzepi, who runs the kitchen of Copenhagen’s famed Noma restaurant, praised the growing recognition of the region’s diverse cuisine.
“It’s a question of time for [Latin American chefs] to reach the top because, to me, they already are at the same level as Europe,” said Roca, whose El Celler de Can Roca was named the world’s best restaurant by British magazine Restaurant.
Latin America is at the “vanguard” of cuisine, with Mexico, Brazil and Peru leading a culinary boom in a region where “popular food is deeply rooted and very rich,” he said.
For the Spanish chef, Latin Americans are mixing history, tradition and indigenous tastes with creativity and cutting edge techniques. The use of cilantro or acidic and spicy flavors give it another edge.
Roca and Redzepi were among the star attractions at the Mesoamerican gastronomy congress in Mexico City last week, which gathered six of the world’s best chefs, including Brazil’s Alex Atala.
The attendance of culinary talent at such events “reaffirms that Latin America is a world power,” Roca said.
Atala’s D.O.M. restaurant in Sao Paulo is in sixth place in Restaurant’s top 50 list, making him the best ranked Latin American chef. Two Peruvian restaurants, two from Mexico and one more from Brazil made the list.
“Today, we must feel grown-up and know that we are no longer the ugly ducklings,” Atala said. “We are living a historic moment, a process of change.”
Redzepi, whose Noma restaurant was dethroned by Roca this year after a three-year reign, said such lists can be criticized, but it has opened Latin American cuisine to the rest of the world.
“Now, it is not impossible to think that the best restaurant can be from Mexico, Brazil, Peru or Denmark,” he told a news conference. “This was totally impossible 10 years ago.”
Redzepi, who has adapted Mexico’s mole sauce for one of his trademark dishes, also predicted that a Latin American restaurant would soon be No. 1.
The region will reach the top of international cuisine thanks to “a diversity of tastes, with hundreds of thousands of years of history,” but also its search for something new.
“You just have to wait, because the time will come,” he said with a smile.
Redzepi had a good review for the Mexico City restaurant Pujol, which was No. 17 on the British magazine’s list, saying he could not remember having eaten so well.