We are in Sucre-Sucre in the Colombian Caribbean touring the streets and houses where the characters of García Márquez’s universe were created. Stopped at the time we live in a magical dimension, where silence is mixed with vallenato and the rain with the flight of butterflies.
Everything is amazing: the view, the flocking of herons and cormorants, the sad cry of the carrao, a bird that announces rain and commits suicide if it can’t find food. As we slide in a boat through the muddy channel, the sincelejo philosopher Isidro Álvarez reads paragraphs from the writings that Gabo created in the areas.
We ate carimañolas, diabolines, almojábanas, ahuyamas, sesame pastes and corozo juices. We heard about dishes called widow roast beef and cat head balls, mostly in this small town located in the sub-region of La Mojana, “where there are no thieves”, its inhabitants grew up talking and you can get there by water. No cars or traffic lights, only boats and boats. La Mojana is a depression in the savannah where the Cauca, San Jorge and Magdalena rivers converge. It is the gastronomic pantry of Colombia, although it floods every year, forcing the transhumance of livestock from the valleys to the mountains and moving boats right inside the city.
3,000 years ago, the indigenous Zenú culture flourished there, recognized for its gold and pottery production, but above all for the creation of a sophisticated hydraulic system with drainage channels that covered 500,000 hectares of mud that land.
Thanks to FunLeo, the foundation created by the famous chef Leo Espinosa and his daughter Laura Hernández, four lucky journalists entered the heart of a privileged region of a megadiverse country with 10% of the planet’s biodiversity to understand the complexity of a cuisine. which uses gastronomy as a tool for social change.
Leo was born in Cartagena, he is a plastic artist, economist and writer. Food came to him because of his transgressive and curious spirit that saw the need to show the ecosystems of Colombia through authentic, sustainable and innovative cuisine that reflects the territory, traditions and ingredients of a unique pantry .
After traveling for several years to the towns where he spent his childhood and where his maternal grandmother lived, whose strong and generous figure had a great impact on him, he opened his first restaurant in 2007. Since then , a chain of recognitions accompanied him. She was the Best Female Chef Latam 2017, the same year the Basque Culinary Center awarded her innovative initiatives, in 2020 she received the Damm star from Chef’s Choice, to mention some of them.
What does the desert, savanna, wasteland, fog taste like? What is the smell of the mountain, the forest, the dry forest, the mangrove?
These questions are answered by Leo in a 12-course menu where he uses 42 ingredients with a type of name of origin covering the Caribbean, indigenous and coast of Colombia.
These same questions are answered by sommelier and business administrator Laura Hernández at La Salita de Laura located on the second floor of Leo’s restaurant, opened in June 2021. She is responsible for the liquid cuisine of the restaurant and the bar that has its own dynamics. Laura tries to encapsulate the territories through fermented, distilled and macerated botanical ingredients. Sometimes citrus aromas are present, other times aromatic or floral or earthy or smoky.
Great work both defined not as dishes or drinks but as testimonies of a diverse, lost and unknown terroir.