In the last edition of the Latin America Bocuse d'Or, Mexican chef Martha Ortiz served as honorary chairman for a jury headed by her compatriot chef Enrique Olvera, Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio and several esteemed colleagues. The event was attended by 10 representatives from different countries - from Argentina to Mexico. Participants included Giovanna Grossi from Brazil and Jessica Tony from Uruguay, who won first and second place, respectively.
Visibly moved, Martha said she was happy to see these women occupy their rightful place and represent the continent in the Bocuse d'Or finals to be held in Lyon next year. "Women must reclaim the kitchen," the chef has said on many occasions, referring to the role of women in the industry and as pillars of continuing the tradition of recipes and flavor.
When not serving as a honorary judge, Martha keeps herself busy with her restaurant Dulce Patria, which is currently listed in Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants. She also has two books in the works and also is a judge on Top Chef Mexico, which airs on NBC's Universo chanell.
We caught up with Martha and here's what she had to say about the Latin America Bocuse d'Or, women in food and her passion for Mexican cuisine:
How was your experience serving as honorary judge at the Latin America Bocuse d´ Or?
It was a great pleasure and I loved the experience. I felt an immense responsibility of observing every single detail and performing my job to the best of my ability. As a Mexican cook, I felt honored by the invitation.
What did you think of the outcome?
I am very happy that two women won. Not only because of ‘girl power’ but also because I believe that women contribute a special characteristics to any competition. We are precise, detail oriented, careful, and have a natural, perhaps hormonal, feel for beauty. In addition to their professional training and sensitivity, these women showed character. I admire strong, feminine women. Women know to to craft and savor beauty.
Cooking seems to be a field where not many women are present. Why do you think this happens?
I think it’s due to various factors but to be honest, it’s not just in our industry. Perhaps we notice it more because cooking attracts a lot of media. In my opinion, women are just getting started at the professional level but we still have to break the glass ceiling that limits us.
In our case it’s the 'caramel' ceiling we have to break so we can work and aspire to bigger things. Every day I see women fierce and knowledgable women with professional ambition. Definitely, the education my generation received is very different compared to that of young women today. Now, young women know there is a world of career opportunities.
You’ve been working on a few literary projects. What can you tell us about them?
There are two publications I am working on for Editorial Planeta. The first one is called Maria Va: recetas para mujeres con grandeza (Maria Goes, Recipes for Women of Greatness). It's a book dedicated to all women and will be like whispering in their ear, essentially a metaphor of how we 'cook' life using culinary terms. We are all Maria and we are living a wonderful moment in time. All we need to do is stop seeing each other as rivals.
The other publication, Sabores de Cuento (Tales of Flavor), is a culinary narration of stories and fantasy with a few recipes. The inspiration for all this is Laura Esquivel and her fabulous novel Like Water For Chocolate. The book will be colorful like the stories of West Anderson, with six recipes and themes…such as mole and the nuns that were as capable as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Last year your restaurant Dulce Patria was named in the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. What did this mean to you?
I am grateful because I live and work as a free and independent spirit. The incursion of Dulce Patria validates the diversity of Mexican cuisine.