José Carlos Capel and Julia Perez Lozano, two of Spain’s most renowned food critics, visited Bogota in May 2013 for their Food Critic Training sessions. They spoke to journalists, editors, chefs and others in the food industry about the role of food critics. Madrid Fusion in Bogota – Food Critic Workshop Part I summarized what they talked about, including the past, present and future of restaurants and how to go about writing restaurant reviews.
The Role of Journalists in the Food Revolution
About the role of food journalists, Mr. Capel commented, “It’s not an art, or a craft. It’s a job. The job of transmitting knowledge. My assessment is subjective. My writing is subjective. But you have to consider the readers and base your review on the facts. Be a good storyteller. In the end, as a writer I should feel that I did what I should do; I am an informer.”
As journalists, “The answer is in our hands. It’s in our hands to help. We need to push the future.”
And then he added, “I don’t care what other people have written.”
The importance of food writers educating themselves about cooking, techniques and ingredients cannot be overstated. It’s something that’s learned over time, and with that knowledge journalists can educate the public. “We shouldn’t be concerned about fancy ingredients, whether the chef used truffles, etc. That’s not as important as how they have used even the simplest of ingredients”, emphasized Ms. Perez.
We always hear about how vital it is for restaurant critics to remain anonymous, but that can be hard to achieve for the well-known. Even when Mr. Capel tries out a restaurant far from his Madrid home, such as in Vienna or London, he’ll still get recognized.
“Colombia has to discover itself, discover the real treasure it has. Colombian cuisine is truly ecological; unlike in the United States, where ‘ecological’ is just a marketing tool,” was Ms. Perez’ point of view. She also emphasized that inspiration is out on the streets, not necessarily in the restaurants.
They also stressed the viewpoint that the new “vanguardia” will come from developing countries. Ferran Adria has said that the third revolution would be in Latin America, would come from the Amazon region, using ingredients that are largely unknown to the world. The public loves to hear about local foods from exotic places like the Amazon. One of those treasures that Colombia has is the amazing variety of tropical fruits. She encouraged chefs to use ingredients from this region without excluding other parts of the planet. She summed it up in one word: “Balance”.
Additionally, Latin America is home to an abundance of passion and enthusiasm, which can be lacking in other areas of the world.
Her advice to chefs was to work together, to support each other. Also, to capture ideas that are different, the experiences from Colombia that are new or original. “This is real life here, not a museum. So, go with your passion and let it shine”.
A heated discussion about the governments’ role in supporting the country’s cuisine included how the governments of Finland and Turkey have supported tourism. “Congress should be a spokesman for Colombian cuisine,” was the conclusion they arrived at.
Remembering the words of Mr. Adria, “Crear es no copiar (creating means not copying)”, they emphasized that he closed the books and invented his own style. He couldn’t stop cooking, the passion didn’t let them.
“When will Colombia do that? It’s a message of freedom. It’s also a call to action.”
Because, as Ms. Perez stressed, “If something happens and you don’t talk about it, it’s like it never happened.”
- Restaurants they mentioned as being up and coming, doing something new or interesting in Colombia: Suburbio, Mini-mal, La Leo, Soco, Diana Garcia.
What do you think about Colombian chefs, are they responding to that call of action?