Fresh from picking up the first Sustainable Restaurant Award presented by Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, Fine Dining Lovers had the chance to chat with chef Rodolfo Guzmán, who explained how sustainability was born out of necessity at his restaurant Boragó in Santiago, Chile.
Below, you can find a series of free thoughts from chef Guzmán and his way to intend cuisine and all the gastronomic world.
Working with small producers
"My reality is Chile’s geography, that’s to say Boragó has sourced products from all 4,000 km of Chile since opening in 2006, and I refuse to use 0 km ingredients. The idea was to obtain one ingredient from small producers around the country and despite almost going bankrupt in the process, chains of foragers and producers still exist today. Take Don Pascual: in the early days, he’d send a small box of tiny wild apples and we now source 500 kilos from Valdivia Alto. That to me is sustainability, that and how we relate ourselves to it in the kitchen".
Down on the biodynamic farm
"The farm project grew out of my own fear that I wouldn't be able to feed people – and do what I wanted to do – when Boragó received a lot of attention in 2013 and expectations changed in the kitchen. As an experimental space, we started exploring this farm, trying out certain plants and certain phenomenon. We organize our seasons and the kitchen staff can learn so much, from planting methods to raising our own ducks (pato chileno). Halophyte, coastal Swiss chard, coastal spinach, and horseradish are all new experiments. There’s also a small vegetable patch at the back of Boragó itself with herbs and tomatoes".
"We are totally connected with what’s happening in Patagonia and the mountains in the south to the Atacama desert in the north. Take pre-spring vegetables we pick from the mountains near Santiago, along with arrayán (wild Chilean myrtle) and white strawberries. These ingredients are only available for three weeks of the year, so we’ve had to adapt to seasonality because we don’t have any other option. That continually pushes us to change up preparations all the time. These ingredients are unique in the world and we’ve been learning from them since we opened 12 years ago".
"In the early days, the restaurant didn’t have a budget for staff meals so we had to use everything! But, thanks to that, we discovered there are hundreds of ways of doing things – such as fermentation or making candy, for example – and nothing is wasted. It’s what life gave us!"
Sustainability according to Guzmán
"True sustainability isn’t a concept but the capacity of a human who is connected to their reality and surroundings, culture, social, people, and the economy that moves all of the aforementioned. These aspects let us take responsible decisions. Boragó’s validity is about three things: knowing who we are, where we come from and what we have around us. From there, adjust your practices, see how you manage your kitchen and connect to nature. It’s not a perfect system but it lets things work".
"Our tables are made from recycled wood sourced from Chilote – I love them! We use lots of handcrafted things inside the restaurant such as dishware, but what is most relevant are the principles of people and being connected to nature. The people who gather our food from the ground are more relevant. Recognizing that makes food tastier in the long run.
Winning the Sustainable Restaurant Award was very important. But most significantly, other people will see it and be encouraged to do the same because everyone should be sustainable. It lets us connect with nature and nature is part of the human being. Sustainability is alive – and it’s our duty".