Their food pays homage to the Mapuche people with their dishes paying respect to what the earth gives in each moment. A must for Latin American cuisine.
Boragó had gone six years of being an empty restaurant before receiving some of the most prestigious awards in the culinary world, offering a dynamic and seasonal menu that boasts the temperament and expressiveness of Chilean soil through some of the most unique ingredients in the world. Their food pays homage to the Mapuche people with their dishes paying respect to what the earth gives in each moment.
Best Chef in Chile
In his family, the women were all greatly skilled in the kitchen and, to them, food was very important; he grew up on the countryside and the city, which gave him a special connection with the earth from a young age. Although he never imagined himself as a professional chef, he eventually realised that this was obvious: ‘All chefs are born chefs, we just become professionals later. We have a stronger connection with food than other people,’ says Rodolfo Guzmán, who earned the title of “Best Chef in Chile” at the 2018 Cooking Awards and whose restaurant, Boragó, is included in the World’s 50 Best 2018 list, as the fifth best restaurant in Latin America. These awards have helped to shift the focus on Chile, one of the most remote countries on the map and the least known countries in the Latin American region, having transformed it into an important culinary hub of global interest.
His first job in a kitchen was at 19 years old, washing dishes in a cafeteria in the United States. With experience in all positions, he quickly became a head chef, proceeding to work in several Chilean and European restaurants, including Mugaritz by Andoni Luis Aduriz. In 2006 he returned to Santiago de Chile, his hometown, and decided to open his own restaurant, whose invented name, Boragó, reminds him daily of his initial intention to humanise, that’s to say, the ability of the human being, through experience and knowledge, to give meaning to elements that did not have it prior. ‘For example, if you cut an alga in the natural way it grows, it could be one of the least delicious things you could ever try, but instead, you as a human being, have the virtue of changing that reality,’ the chef explains.
Boragó serves contemporary meals based on the flavour and fruits provided by the Chilean Mother Earth, continuing the legacy of the region’s Mapuche ancestors. ‘Never has a restaurant, in the history of Chile, tried to take advantage of all of the region’s ingredients and understand the territory as the Mapuche did. We have always pretended to be Europeans up until the 90’s, then we pretended to be Americans. We are a perfect example of miscegenation. We do not have culture, but the Mapuche people account for almost 13.000 years in this territory. They have a saying that goes, “when you cook, another cuts,” referring to eating as a deep collaboration,’ Rodolfo explain.
To create these dishes, they use unique ingredients from all corners of Chile, such as rainwater with a high degree of purity from Patagonia, freshly milked milk from animals in natural breeding, vegetables from their own biodynamic field just 30 minutes from Santiago, wild fruits that only grow three weeks out of the year at a height of 3.500 metres, and mushrooms from the country’s forest, just to name a few. ‘Unlike other Latin American indigenous peoples, the Mapuches were not farmers, but rather harvesters. In the morning, the tribe goes out to collect ingredients from around the area. In Santiago, there are things that grow that people cannot even imagine. They are unique ingredients. Chile is the largest endemic pantry on the planet,’ the chef confesses.
A team of 30 people constitutes the staff, but behind them there are more than 200 people, among harvesting communities and small producers who, although they are not visible daily in the dining room, are part of the Boragó environment with the same prominence as the rest of the team.
The diner can choose between two menus, both reflecting what the Chilean soil provides each season of the year: Raqko, with 6 menu items, and Endémica, which can vary from 16 to 20 items, being available since day 1 of the restaurant. ‘We account for hundreds of ingredients that we want to show via a dynamic service. The menus change throughout the seasons, with the soil of Chile being very responsive. We try to show it throughout the season,’ the chef explains, clarifying that the flavours are experienced differently depending on where you are from: ‘Chileans do it through the memory. That’s the reason why Chileans today not only come to eat our food, but also to feel proud of it. Never, in the history of Chile, was there a more relevant restaurant, basically because food has never been important to us. It is related, but cuisine had never been related to culture, which is something much deeper. On the other hand, other people have more sensorial memory. These are flavours that have no record because they are totally unique ingredients.’
Currently, Boragó is a culinary reference: chefs from all over the world come to the restaurant to experience the knowledge that Rodolfo and his team have achieved, and the waiting list to get a table is months long; however, it was not always like this. ‘During the first six years the restaurant was completely empty, until we entered the famous 50 Best Restaurants in the World list. Now we are full. The local press simply did not publish us. We were the ones who cut the little plants, the same plants that the Mapuches ate thousands of years ago, and they are delicious.’
The restaurant has two interesting internship programs, one for three months and another for six, in which the chefs that are chosen will participate in all parts of the process, including the collection of ingredients. ‘We offer training by trade. They come to learn very different things, from the experimental way in which we work the field to the service itself,’ the chef explains.
Boragó is more tradition than knowledge; in the restaurant’s 11 years of existence, they have taken the properties of the ingredient to the limit. Rodolfo Guzmán leads “Conectáz”, a project of interaction between chefs and experts with regards to a variety of subjects, from biologists, anthropologists, archaeologists to nutritionists and doctors, who seek to deepen and explore the Chilean territory, from the Andes mountain range to its coasts, from the north to the south of the country, in order to later document and catalogue the unique ingredients that they discover.
Conectáz is comprised of two physical spaces: Test Kitchen and Lab Kitchen. In the former, located on the second floor of Boragó, the I + D team of the restaurant works. This is where the chef spends the most time. According to him, the majority of his work is based right there, in creativity. The Lab Kitchen, located at the Catholic University of Santiago de Chile, has a more noticeable focus on food. Both spaces work in tandem and their mission is to generate an important synergy with respect to knowledge. The result being a true dictionary of Chilean territory. The chef believes that these ingredients will define the way people eat and, together with his team, faces new challenges related to the scarcity of food in the world. Boragó already utilises such ingredients as plants that grow on rocks without the need for land. ‘What we do in Conectáz is very revolutionary. We are looking backwards in order to move forwards, we try to connect our past with a possible future. We have decided to pass all of this information to future generations because we believe that knowledge has been underestimated in our country and because this information may even represent the future economies of Chile.’
Near the end of last year, Rodolfo published his book Boragó. Coming from the South, which includes sketches of dishes and creative processes, a selection of 100 recipes that have been part of the restaurant’s menu, and a description of unique Chilean ingredients, including a panoramic that shows the long process of learning that ran from the restaurant’s opening until today. ‘Only now is it that we feel that we have a very deep notion of the Chilean territory, 10 years later. Boragó is like a child with the potential to become an athlete, that’s to say, it is really when you are 20 years old when you are going to see the results. I think that in the future, Boragó is going to become something very interesting,’ the chef concludes.
INFO | Open from Monday to Saturday, dinner only service. Reservations can be made online: www.borago.cl
GPS | Nueva Costanera 3467, Vitacura. Santiago de Chile.