FROM MY PERSPECTIVE...
by Jake W. Denburg
Fotografía: Manuel Barrutia
Stylist: Daniel Beltran
Location: Jake´s Restaurant
The “farm to table” movement has finally trickled down to Guatemala. My question is, when was Guatemala anything other than farm to table?
I can only relate my own experience in establishing a professional kitchen, or for that matter cooking for myself upon arrival in Guatemala 35 years ago. We all went to the central market of the town in which we resided to fill our larders.
When Jake’s appeared on the scene in February of 1988, the amount of restaurants could have easily been counted on two hands. Just to name a few of the pioneers of haute cuisine in Guatemala, the Tassinari family of the famed Las Vegas of Zona 1, from which sprouted Romanello’s and Vittorio’s. Jean Francois’ Belle Epoque, Palo Alto, Estro Armónico and La Raclette.
The Guatemalan dining scene virtually exploded in the early 21st century due to the lowering of tariffs in 1996. The reduction of taxes brought the business world to our doorstep and opened that door to millions of Guatemaltecos, hungry to eat up the newly exposed world.
We, restaurateurs, certainly benefited from this opening of trade in the agricultural sector. The worldwide recognition of our volcanic soil producing a dizzying array of fruits and vegetables. We became the beneficiaries from their overproduction, and finally the agro-business realizing the local market potential thusly included us as clients. The increase in international trade paved the way for the importation of food from all of our international business partners.
So, from my perspective, the “farm to table” revolution in Guatemala was not so revolutionary, but more of an affirmation to the amazing quality and diversity of Guatemalan agriculture.
I feel the latest promotion of Guatemalan cooks need to be careful that purity and moral superiority are not excuses for not knowing how to cook. As artisans, we strive to procure the best “materia prima” available in the market, but in the end it’s still more important how food tastes than it’s origins!