From the jungle to the desert, the world’s newest female chef, Leonor Espinosa, is inspired by Colombia’s vast biodiversity, painful history and often overlooked traditional community. I’m getting it.

She is not only a cook but also an activist, traveling to every corner of her country to learn indigenous cuisine and calling out to those who feel abandoned in areas suffering from poverty and decades of violence. increase.

“My food tastes like mandate culture, forgotten areas, ancestral techniques, smoke, pain, etc.,” she was named by the panel as the world’s best female chef 2022. Later, I told AFP in Bogotá. She was named one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World.

“It’s also a taste of joy, plantain, cassava, soil after rain, desert ecosystem. There are many poems in my kitchen.”

In appointing Espinosa as the winner, the Top 50 Panel described her as “a versatile Colombian chef who blends art, politics and gastronomy.”

At her restaurant Leo in the heart of Bogotá, “She is trying to use gastronomy as a tool for socio-economic development, while at the same time creating a unique, bold and profound culinary style that sets her apart from her contemporaries. I made it. “”


Born in Cartagena, in the southwestern part of the country, Espinosa grew up in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast and learned to cook.

She studied economics and art and worked in advertising at the age of 35 before jumping into the kitchen.

In 2017 she was anointed with the best female chef in Latin America.

In order to provide her restaurant with a menu that incorporates its trademark natives and farmers, she traversed Colombia endlessly to record the history of its cuisine.

She incorporates many traditional ingredients into her repertoire. From exotic fruits and Andean tubers to ants and larvae, she brings the tradition of bushes to the city’s five-star taste.

Espinosa’s exploration and uplifting agenda often took her to some parts of Colombia’s nearly 60-year-old civil war.

Much of this work is done at her Funleo Foundation, which was founded in 2008 and won the Basque World Award nine years later for promoting the gastronomic traditions of the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.

“This award sheds light on communities that have struggled for years to recognize their ancestral values ​​and their contribution to the country’s cultural identity,” said Espinosa at the time.

“This is a way to mitigate the silence created by armed conflict, injustice and exclusion.”

With nose piercings and a shy smile, Espinosa told AFP that salt-worthy cooks were also anthropologists, political scientists, and artists.

If the chef is a woman, they also need to have thick and tenacious skin.

Women have traditionally been responsible for cooking in Colombia, but the world of fine dining has always been dominated by men, said Espinosa, a hurdle she experienced.

But she wasn’t easily postponed.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve clearly shown that no one else wants to be me,” she told AFP.

“I’m myself … I’m rebellious, irreverent, and curious.”

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