Voted the best restaurant in Chile by the Imagen de Chile foundation, and ranked fourth in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016. Boragó and its creator Rodolfo Guzmán have struck a chord among those lucky enough to have experienced the unique masterpieces they offer. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary after opening the restaurant in 2006, Guzmán has been working on revolutionizing the culinary scene of Santiago, and of Chile more broadly, preparing dishes with exclusively Chilean species of fauna and flora that challenge preconceived notions of what one can and cannot – or should and should not – eat.
Although he is now one of the most renowned chefs in Latin America, Guzmán never knew that he wanted to be a chef when he was younger, rather, it was just something that happened to him. However it was always one of the few things he was great at, in comparison to the more traditional subjects you would learn in school.
“During my childhood, school and grades had never been my strong suit, but in the kitchen, things were different – they made sense. It felt like everything fell into place”
After many jobs working in restaurants both in Chile and Europe, 2006 marked the opening of Rodolfo Guzmán’s restaurant, Boragó. When asked what brought about the decision, Rodolfo explained that the many ideals and desires of his younger self pushed him to open his restaurant, which would eventually play a key role in the revolution of Chilean cuisine. Guzmán’s vision made the most of the vast variety of Chile’s unique wildlife and vegetation thanks to the country’s length, spanning from northern desert to southern glaciers and from the eastern Andes to the western Pacific Ocean.
“An overwhelming percentage of Chileans have Mapuche* origins, yet many perceived the Mapuche traditional food and native ingredients as being of lesser quality than many foreign cuisines. I wanted to use Boragó to raise awareness about the rich potential of Chilean ingredients, by cooking only with products native to Chile”
Not only did the chef achieve this goal, but through the opening of the restaurant Boragó he has also created a chain of demand that has provided over 200 people with jobs – changing lives in addition to producing completely incomparable dishes. Boragó’s dishes emphasize the qualities of a few ingredients at a time, steering clear of mixing many elements in favor of offering you clear and distinctive tastes that will surprise, but not confuse, the palate.
(*the Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants primarily from south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina)
The culinary industry is becoming increasingly competitive and the potential for success is appealing to more and more young aspiring chefs. However Guzmán explained first hand that it is not all fun and games – although being a top chef may seem like a luxurious lifestyle, which it can be at times, beneath the surface it presents lots of challenges and can be one of the toughest professions out there. It requires lots of dedication, passion, and true grit if you really want to be the best in the business, because working in a kitchen itself is hard but owning a restaurant is an even harder task to take on.
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“You need true dedication, you need to really love the act of cooking itself. Because us chefs, we’re not glamorous stars. If fame comes along then great, but after the photos and the interviews, you go right back to chopping in the kitchen.”
With his restaurant reaching the number 4 spot among the best in the continent, Guzmán is clearly dedicated and committed to his restaurant, and the success is a credit to his worth ethic. However, he explained that contrary to popular belief he is not a complete workaholic. He told us a few things people might not know about him: He has four sons so enjoys family life
“Outside of work I really enjoy family life – many people don’t know that I actually have four sons, so it’s great to spend time with them and I also like to go running in the mornings to keep fit. Stamina is key when you’re working in a hot kitchen! People may be surprised to learn that I enjoy cooking at home on the weekends too, not just at the restaurant. I guess I’ll never get tired of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen!”
Although similarities do exist, the culinary industry differs greatly between each country. In Chile, Guzmán explained that they are just now beginning to have a culinary revolution, something that took place a long time ago in places like Peru and Mexico. This change is a really different and enjoyable moment for Chilean chefs. If you’re in Santiago and looking for the best places to buy your ingredients, he recommends the Mercado Orgánico in La Reina on Saturdays and Wednesdays.