The Copenhagen-born chef, Kamilla Seidler, who commands the kitchen at La Paz, Bolivia’s famed restaurant Gustu, is set to embark on a four-month culinary expedition exploring various cuisines, continents, and cultures around the world.
Seidler, currently Latin America’s Best Female Chef according to The World’s 50 Best, will kick off her tour April 3 in Scandinavia joining a host of short-term projects, food festivals, and symposiums in Norway, Denmark, Austria, Spain, Russia, the Philippines, and the Himalayas. Recently, chef Diego Muñoz of Lima, Peru’s Astrid y Gastón (currently #30 on World Best 50 List) completed a similar tour.
Since the restaurant’s opening in 2013, Seidler quickly secured Gustu’s position as Latin America’s 14th Best Restaurant by adopting principles set forth in Claus Meyer — the restaurateur behind Gustu and Copenhagen’s Noma — and Noma chef René Redzepi’s emblematic New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto. Specifically, Seidler is committed to using local, indigenous ingredients formally presented in the manifesto as the promise “To base our cooking on ingredients and produce whose characteristics are particularly in our climates, landscapes, and waters.”
Seidler has come to know Bolivia’s vast and biologically diverse locale — where more than twenty thousand documented species of plants abound — through travel and daily visits to markets, street vendors, and purveyors. As a result, everything in the restaurant is pointedly Bolivian. As Seidler stated, “We decided to go with a 100% Bolivian philosophy to make sure the people benefiting from this restaurant would be small producers and the whole food chain. From the education of young people to making sure producers would get a fair price and the client would sit in a Bolivian chair, everything would be about Bolivia because the country offers so much.”
In an interview following her Latin America’s Best Female Chef honor, Seidler noted, “Cooking in Denmark, I would imagine a menu then order the ingredients and see if I liked the results. In Bolivia, it’s about deciding what we can make out of the products we have.”
Another important facet of Gustu, Seidler and Meyer’s vision is their chef training program. Over the past few years, Meyer built a network of culinary schools, named Manq’a meaning “food,” throughout Bolivia where young students from low-income backgrounds receive full scholarships; the best of which are offered positions at Gustu. The goal is not only to teach marketable skills and give rise to a growing middle class but to also encourage national pride through food.
Concerning her tour, Seidler shares that “With this upcoming expedition my hope is to spread the word of how we in Bolivia fight challenges through deliciousness. How we empower a generation of cooks who we believe will encourage their communities and revive pride in their cuisine to the extent that it’ll become a national symbol. We’re not fully there yet but are on the right track, and it all began with Gustu. We do believe that we can change the world through food.”