Star chef hails LatAm's 'Champions League' food
Spanish star chef Ferran Adria was full of praise Wednesday for the blossoming restaurant scene in Latin America as he opened a museum exhibit in Panama exploring his innovative cooking techniques.
The temporary exhibit at Panama City's new Biodiversity Museum is an educational celebration of the hi-tech methods the Catalan chef used to push the boundaries of cuisine at his restaurant elBulli, named best in the world five times by Britain's authoritative Restaurant magazine.
"In recent years all of Latin America is playing in the Champions League, in the first division in terms of gastronomy and innovation," Adria, who closed elBulli in 2011 and has been busy converting it into a gastronomic training and research center, said, using a footballing metaphor.
"Gastronomic innovation has made Latin America a reference point. Today when you go to Tokyo, Shanghai or Berlin, people are constantly talking about what's happening here," he told the crowd at the museum, a concrete-and-steel jumble of primary colors designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.
"There's a generation of talented chefs who are forging a contemporary cuisine here," he said, mentioning the food scenes in Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile.
"There are some extraordinary products, especially in the vegetable world, which is good because it's cheap, accessible and varied."
Latin America has garnered growing acclaim for its gastronomy in recent years as new takes on regional traditions -- Mexico's chocolate sauce "mole", Brazil's black bean stew "feijoada," Peru's refreshing raw fish "ceviche" -- make waves on the international food scene.
The region's rising chefs include Peru's Gaston Acurio of Lima restaurant Astrid y Gaston; Mexico's Enrique Olvera of Mexico City restaurant Pujol; and Brazil's Helena Rizzo of Sao Paulo restaurant Mani, named World's Best Female Chef this year by the champagne house Veuve Clicquot.
Adria, 52, rose to fame for taking food apart and rebuilding it in surprising ways -- savory foams, liquid olives, parmesan ice cream.
He is also known for his pioneering use of liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze ingredients.
© 2014 AFP