Chef Sebastián Quiroga decided to become a vegan after watching a documentary called “Earthlings” and began experimenting with supplies of vegetable origin. Entrepreneur and rebel, he opened “Ali Pacha”, his restaurant of vegan haute cuisine in the historic center of La Paz, surrounded by a range of different fast food places, and also with a secret menu. Before that, no other gourmet restaurant would have thought of such an idea, because they would just disappear.

 

Now, three years later, chef Sebastián Quiroga will be the first ambassador of Bolivian and Vegan haute cuisine in Washington D.C.

 

When we communicated with him he was working on his internationalization project on American soil, close to opening this summer in the Latin American market “La Cosecha”.

 

Let’s know a little more about him and his innovative proposal.

 

By Fabiola Gálvez

 

Tell us a little about your career. Did you study in London and then you moved to Copenhagen?

I studied French cuisine and pastry at Le Cordon Blue London, and then came back. In Peru, I did internships at Astrid & Gastón, and then I worked for three months in the initial period of Gustu, in Bolivia. Then, I went to Copenhagen, and I spent a year and a half doing internships in Relæ, Studio and other restaurants. After that, I decided to start on my own.

 

What happened in that documentary that made you become vegan?

I saw this documentary called “Earthlings”. As soon as it was over, I said to myself, “Now I’m a vegan,” and it was to understand everything that the animal industry is causing, and then I as a chef felt a great responsibility, and the next day I started experimenting with vegetables ingredients.

 

Bolivia is very suitable for cooking vegetables. What are the most characteristic vegetables ingredients of Bolivia?

We work with native food supplies and the most emblematic of our country. Peanuts and peppers are native to Chuquisaca, there are several studies that prove it, and then they left to conquer the world.

As Peru and Bolivia share a great variety of tubers, and all the Andean terrain, then I think there is much to show, but rescuing supplies such as peppers, types of peanuts, grains, quinoa, amaranth, cañahua, different tubers , coffee, cocoa, biodiversity is immense.

 

And do they also use these ingredients for drinks?

For drinks we work with natural wines, local craft beers, and the spirits that are produced in the country such as singani, gin, vodka, all native to Bolivia.

 

What is “Ali Pacha”? Tell us your vision about the project.

Ali Pacha is a restaurant where we are dedicated to the elaboration of the products and the diversity that we have in Bolivia, evidently a signature cuisine restaurant, and where we work with the vegetal universe.

In the same place of the restaurant, on the top floor we have a bar, cocktails and signature cocktails.

 

 

The restaurant is located in an area full of fast food restaurants. How did you come up with breaking that trend by opening a vegan haute cuisine in the middle of everything?

We are in the heart of La Paz, it is not a place where it is used to open new restaurants, more of them are located in the south, where the upper middle class lives. In downtown La Paz there are the banks, offices, and all the chaos of the city, and we have many burgers and fried chicken places.

Everyone thought that the project was not going to work because there is not much haute cuisine restaurant that was something new. First, because we were betting on that area, second because it was going to be a vegetarian restaurant, and third, it is a tasting menu, so we had all the barriers that have ended up becoming virtues.

 

What experience will I live as a guest when I try the dishes in your restaurant?

We keep the menu as secret until it is on the table, and we work it by seasons.

Now we have dishes that we use with three main supplies: cassava, Amazonian almond and cucumber, with different techniques. For example, a texture similar to cheese because of the elasticity that it has and the starch of the cassava. The same way we use fermented cassava, then we make a kind of ricotta with amazonian almond, and we have a fermented cucumber water.

We have another dish, where we use corn, and we make a kind of huminta, a corn cream and some coffee on the plate. It’s like getting a mouthful and having a balance of textures, acidity, sweetness, saltiness and an explosion of flavors.

 

“Ali Pacha” will be the first Bolivian haute cuisine restaurant that manages to internationalize. What would you advise other projects that have that dream?

I could not be more excited, the truth, is to always be innovating and if you have “desire to” and believe in you, I think it’s just about starting and keep going, and the doors opened here in Washington.

What fills me the most is to take the name of Bolivia to the world and show our gastronomy through the supplies and transmit it to the rest, because we are still a very virgin country compared to Peru that is light years away. We have our side as Bolivians, and offering that to the world is an excellent portal, and I believe that while we are working with Bolivian supplies this will help the economic chain of food.

 

You will be in the capital of the United States, one of the countries with the highest annual consumption of meat, and at the same time the country that has the largest number of vegetarian restaurants in the world. Do you think this is a contradiction?

It is not a contradiction, we are talking about the United States, which is where industrialization and genetically modified foods were born, but now thanks to the era in which we live, we know more information about the market.

For example, vegetable milk in the United States has overtook sales of cow’s milk, and on the side of the animal industry, vegetable meats are growing because you do not need the same consumption of water, land, grains or energy.

The thing is that a good piece of meat tastes incredible, but there is an option that does not bring negative effects and the consumer is going to be the one who chooses this. And it is very positive that in a supermarket or in a carnivorous restaurant have dishes with vegan options.

 

 

What is the proposal you are going to offer in Washington DC? How are you going to do with the supplies?

We will work with the same concept of Bolivia: from the local side, with fresh supplies, and from the side of Bolivia all the supplies that are dry and those that are most remarkable in the country, grains, cereals, tubers, and here there are importers of these supplies. And in wines and spirits, we talk about 50% local and 50% Bolivian.

 

Thank you very much, chef Sebastián for the interview and we wish you much success for your next project in the United States.

 

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