January 15, 2020

Chefs Jaime Rodríguez and Sebastián Pinzón (Celele, Cartagena) bring the Colombian Caribbean food pantry to Madrid Fusión. “We’re much more than just coconut rice and patacones. For example, we have up to 80 different types of beans”.

Jaime Rodríguez and Sebastián Pinzón (Celele, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia) have inaugurated the presentations on the last day of the Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión 2020. The two Colombians have showcased the work they’ve carried out in cataloguing the “many products, recipes and traditions from the Colombian Caribbean”, a territory of over 130,000km2 (one and a half times Portugal, just to compare) “with a great geographical and climatic diversity as well”.

With their Caribe Lab project, the Colombian chefs have spent two years travelling through the area to which Europeans, Africans and Arabs also arrived, cultures that coexisted with the native people “in order to create an identity”. The Colombian Caribbean is a blend of many cultures “that can best be exemplified, for example, by the Egg-stuffed Arepa dish. It contains corn (a native ingredient), chicken eggs (the Spanish brought the chickens over), frying (a technique inherited from Africa) and “suero costeño” (a dip which comes from Arab fermented milk), a dish to bring cultures together, a 100% Caribbean dish”.

After completing all their travels, they opened Celele, “a contemporary cuisine restaurant based on the Caribbean’s diversity, where we write down and improve techniques and details”. A restaurant that receives its products from Rodríguez and Pinzon’s network of local producers, a network that replenishes itself thanks to the collection routes they both promote. “There are producers that don’t have the means to bring their products to us, so we go to them”.

Among these, peculiar and local products, virgin as well as treated, such as the pineapple and banana vinegars, fermented like in the “Suero costeño”, mentioned above, flowers they didn’t know about like the torch ginger, the may flower or the canafistila or more than 80 types of frijole (beans), “that we use to make things more visible”, they pointed out.

The idea, they summarized, “is to show that the Caribbean is much more than just coconut, fried fish or patacones, although we also use them in many dishes”. In order to show us, they have prepared a stewed goat in coconut and dried red shrimp juice, a typical dish from the dry tropical desert of the Caribbean. “In this recipe, we improve the traditional desert dish by vacuum cooking the goat, and changing the quality of the rice”.

From the desert to the tropical dry forest, also Caribbean, to make a fresh pickled flower of Jamaica full of shrimp tartare with a coconut oil emulsion and a cold leaf of Jamaica broth. A dish in which they have worked with Colombian botanists and the Basque Culinary Center to learn about and better treat these flowers, of which they now use parts that were not regularly used in the area.

Jaime Rodríguez and Sebastián Pinzón represent the new generation of Colombian chefs, a generation that has been breaking the traditional paradigms, showing “that the Caribbean -Colombian in this case- has a lot to say”.