Carolina Bazán: Bringing a Fresh and Seasonal Taste of Chile to the Heart of Santiago

Carolina Bazán grew up with a first-hand taste at diversity as a diplomat’s daughter who grew up in various different countries prior to turning 13. At the young age of 23, she and her mother opened their first restaurant, of which Carolina was put in charge. Thanks to Bazán’s vision, passion, and determination, she made her way to the top, earning her restaurant the 20th spot in the prestigious list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016.

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Carolina Bazán explained in interview that she never had that moment when she knew she wanted to be a chef. After all, she said, studying gastronomy was not popular. Instead, when at 18 years old she had just graduated from high school, a friend of hers whose sister was a cook proposed the chef idea to her.

“After my friend suggested cheffing I thought I may as well try it out, and lo and behold it turned out that I really liked it”

Bazán went to culinary school and later did a internship in Peru, which opened her mind to new ideas. She explained that while studying, she had formed certain preconceptions about the way things should be, whereas her experiences actually working in Peru (and later in Milan and Paris too) opened her eyes to the infinite possibilities the world has to offer.

After Peru, Bazán returned to Chile and began working with her mother. An ambassador’s wife, Carolina Bazán’s mother had taken cooking classes in the various countries the family had lived in, experiences that contributed to her daughter’s culinary upbringing. A friend offered a place in Santiago’s center with the proposal to open a restaurant, which she accepted upon agreeing with her daughter that Carolina would be in charge of the kitchen. After opening in 2003, Ambrosía rapidly came to stand out as a prime spot for lunch in the center. In 2011, the Ambrosía family prepared itself for a shift in gears. Bazán decided to return to her studies, working with chef Gregory Marchand in Paris for a year before returning to Santiago. The new Ambrosía opened in 2013, having moved to the Vitacura neighborhood toward the east of Santiago, and it hasn’t disappointed.

“We created this second version of Ambrosia to focus on fresh and seasonal cuisine within a relaxed and welcoming setting. We also pay high attention to detail on our wine list to give customers the best gastronomic experience possible.”

Bazán let us in on a few of the things that people might not know about her as a chef:

“One thing people might not know is that I’m extremely demanding in the kitchen. We have a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere, but when it comes to the actual moment of preparing and presenting the final product, I am extremely demanding.”

“I really enjoy trying new things, new tastes, new recipes, new ingredients.”

“I experience life to its fullest, and I bring my experiences to my kitchen, allowing my thoughts and feelings to influence the dishes I create every day.”

Bazán offered one more tidbit of information as yet little known by others – she is launching a cook book in December 2016, inspired by the Daft Punk video of “Revolution 909” from 1997. The music video follows the line of production from a tomato seedling all the way through the tomato’s growth, collection, and its various stages thereafter to the creation of a homemade tomato sauce (a speck of which actually escapes onto its eater’s shirt.) Bazán’s soon-to-be-published cook book took seasons to make, as it involved accounting for the processes of development of every single ingredient used in each recipe, including visits to some of her own providers. It will present recipes for each season, in accordance with the philosophy behind the food you will find at Ambrosía.

Ambrosía has no fixed menu. Rather, Carolina explained that she opens the fridge every morning and decides what to create based on what she has available, just the way she does in her kitchen at home.

“I like doing it this way as it not only keeps the menu refreshing and exciting, but it also gives me the freedom to work with the absolute best ingredients I have available on any given day”

Bazán additionally revealed the little-known fact that the Ambrosía family will be opening a new restaurant in the upcoming months. This new Ambrosía will be smaller with about 40 seats available for a cozy bistro experience.

If you’re looking for a great gastronomical experience in Chile, take a bite out of Santiago with this excellent foodie tour here.

Many people aspiring to be a chef should know that it is not all fun and games – the career requires a lot of hard work too, which Bazán can vouch for.

“It’s really tough. Persistence is key. If you have a clear idea, follow it, and insist on what you believe in.”

Since she was a young girl, Bazán held an admiration for those who simplified the cooking process, referring to Jamie Oliver as an example of someone she greatly respects for his efforts in making recipes more accessible to large audiences. She added that the style, the kitchen, and the tastes that David Chang produced in his restaurants (in New York as well as various other major international cities) are admirable and an inspiration to her.

Bazán explained that there does exist some differences between the Latin American Culinary Industries. In Chile, it’s something that is only recently coming to realize its potential.

“Before, going out to a restaurant meant going out for a foreign cuisine. Now, people are beginning to appreciate the value of local cuisine, of traditional tastes, and actually wanting to have those dishes on one’s table.”

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