Andrés Rueda – an upcoming culinary revolution in Colombia
Andrés Rueda works as Executive Chef for Compass Group at Google Colombia and also is Head Chef and Co-Owner of Splendens Food Solutions. Chef Andrés knows the Colombian cuisine very well and talks about the latest trends he has noticed. Read on to find out why there is an upcoming culinary revolution in Colombia.
A portrait of Chef Andrés Rueda
Today you are working as Executive Chef for Compass at Google in Bogotá, Colombia, with lots of different great experiences before. Where does your passion for cooking come from?
I guess my passion for cooking comes from family influences. My grandmother and my father are incredible cooks who enjoy sharing new recipes with the entire family, reason why I grew up living the joy of food by seeing the true power and purpose of food for me: bringing families/people together around a table. I fell in love with this power, the power to make people happy with your creations and make them feel and live new experiences every day.
How did your chef career start? What drove you to become a chef?
I’ve always been hyperactive, eager to learn, curious, a DIY kind of guy. Reason why I never saw myself in a desk. By acknowledging this, I started looking and researching for a profession where I could burn all the energy that I have, where I could create and do things my way, and I ran into culinary. At the beginning it was not easy, I hated the first semester, I couldn’t stand peeling potatoes and cut perfectly every single time a julienne, or making perfect dices.
To be honest I almost quit, but everything changed once I was offered an internship at one of the most renowned restaurants in town. Once I stepped on that kitchen and saw the rush, the heat, the adrenalin I fell in love immediately, and I knew that I was right where I belonged, I found my temple, my passion; I decided I wanted that Chef life for me.
You visited as well the Le Cordon Bleu Peru. How has this time influenced you as a cook to this day?
This trip has been one of the best and most rewarding experiences that I’ve ever had. Le Cordon Bleu is one of the most (if not the most) important Culinary Institute in LATAM. Even though I visited this Institute about a decade ago, until now I still use most of the techniques learnt throughout my stay.
Lima, and Perú in general, has one of the most exciting and complex foods in the world, full of spices, textures and colors. One of the key learnings that I had from this experience that I still use today is the respect for an ingredient, a dish in particular, and to understand the purpose/role that a certain ingredient plays in a recipe in case you want to make a proper Fusion Cuisine.
Every time you challenge yourself, you break your own limits. – Andrés Rueda
Later, you also worked as a chef teacher at the Colegio Gato Dumas. What was your experience during this time?
Working at Gato Dumas was a very rewarding experience. I was the Latin American Cuisine teacher in this school, which for me is the best in my country. Being a teacher makes you push your limits/boundaries in every single aspect. You have to study harder than your students, you have to be better prepared and even more perfectionist, you have to learn and open your mind to different cultures, points of view, and in a certain way have more patience.
These kind of moves help you put yourself out of your comfort zone, which for me is the key to success. Every time you challenge yourself or put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you break your own limits and prove yourself what you’re made of and grow as a person and as a professional.
After some time as cook in Miami with JW Marriott, you came back to Bogota as Head Chef and Co-Owner of Splendens Food Solutions. What do you offer? What is your specialization?
Splendens Food Solutions is a small startup that I jointly created with a friend of mine, we offer different kinds of catering options to our customers. The basic idea of this business is to create a much more personalized catering based on comfort food, casual, but high-end dishes full of taste and colors for every single situation.
Traditional Colombian Cuisine – how would you describe it best?
I consider that the best word to describe Traditional Colombian Cuisine would be diverse. Colombia is a very diverse country where you can find different kind of climates depending how close you are to one of our two coasts (Caribbean or Pacific Coast) as well as how up the mountain you find yourself in to. Depending on the region, you can go from heavy stews and roasted cuts of beef and pork to fresh fish with fried plantain, going through some strong Spanish, Arab and African influences.
Modern Colombian Cuisine – how would you describe it best?
I believe that Modern Colombian Cuisine is evolving at fast pace and soon will begin to impact the world such as Mexican, Peruvian and Argentinian Cuisines. We are starting to see new Chefs with different backgrounds who have travelled all over the globe, learning from different Chefs and cultures, and are bringing those learnings to implement them here with our most traditional ingredients. Every day you see new evolving Chefs finding forgotten ingredients, adapting them to new concepts and are creating a very interesting fusion that will become, hopefully soon, a Colombian Cuisine Revolution.
Bogotá, the 8 million capital of Colombia and vibrating city in the mountains. How would you describe Bogotá from a culinary point of view today?
Bogotá as you say, is a vibrating city which is attracting on a daily basis more tourists and international investments. This has led from a culinary point of view to a more demanding market, reason why all the culinary revolution is happening basically in this city. You can find a wide range of different restaurants from all over the world opening on a daily basis, each with their own and unique concepts.
Do fusion creations play any role within the Colombian kitchen?
As I mentioned before, there is a boom of Evolving Colombian Chefs who are coming back to our country from their trips to adapt their concepts with local products that a decade ago no one showed any interest in. Reason why I believe that this fusion is playing the biggest role in the upcoming culinary revolution in my country, adapting avant garde techniques and concepts to our traditional dishes.
What are some of the latest trends in Bogotá’s food & chef scene?
One of the most interesting trends that we are now seeing is a mayor growth of “closed door” restaurants opening in our city. These restaurants are basically opened by Chefs who open the door of their house to certain amount of customers, normally the seats have to be reserved by e-mail or Instagram, where these Chefs showcase their style, culinary concepts in a controlled space. Once they strengthen their concept, normally they end up renting a local and start a restaurant of their own.
As Executive Chef with Compass at Google Colombia; what is your culinary set up?
My set up as a Chef for Compass at Google would be a farm to table kind of concept, enlightening it with a little bit of comfort food. I’m a plant forward chef so I like to give more importance to the natural beauty of the vegetables, using natural ingredients for sauces, garnishes and even using them as main dishes. I like to think every time that I create a dish, how would it be being the main piece of the dish. For example, if I’m making a mushroom risotto, how is the environment where those mushrooms live, how does it feel to be there, is it hot, is it cold, etc… Once I define the environment or the concept I play with the ingredients in order to bring that feeling to a dish.
Is there any place in the world you would like to work as a chef one day?
My last culinary trip took me to Seattle and I have to admit that I loved that city, reason why I consider it my new favorite place in the world to cook. There is something about that city that simply attracts you, the ambiance, the amazing restaurants, pike place, etc…
Thank you very much, Chef Andrés!
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