The renowned cook, who was one of “Sabor Barranquilla” special guests, shared her experiences and beliefs with RegionCaribe.
Leonor Espinosa de la Ossa is well known around the world thanks to her wide experience as a chef, promotor of Colombian gastronomy and for the empowerment of ancestral roots. In fact, las July she accepted in Spain the “Basque Culinary World Prize 2017”, which is considered to be “Nobel Prize” of gastronomy, because of her impact in society and social change generation.
Nevertheless, this woman, who has been awarded many times internationally, never studied gastronomy professionally although she made some seminars outside the country. She affirms that all of her knowledge is based on research, studying and traveling.
She has studied Economics, Advertising and even Plastic Arts; she says the last one finally got her “against the wall”:
‘I had to choose, and at the time I wanted to cook, but then I realized that was what I had always wanted”, she explains confidently.
What she cooks has all kind of ingredients from the national territory, in her words she doesn’t stick with on region but investigates all kinds of ecosystems. When talking about her style, Leo defines herself as a woman who gives originality, authenticity, experiences and knowledge to her cooking. But above it all, she highlights that “Caribbean flavor” that, she says, has nothing to do with ingredients but with the intangible sensation that is transmitted through emotions, like music.
‘My food is not only Caribbean but it has the Caribbean flavor. That joyful flavor that creates emotions, a flavor with its own character, but one that is also delicate and very linked to afro roots, happiness and tumbao”
, she describes its identity firmly and convinced, as if she was feeling, in that very moment, what her food makes feel to those who try it.
To Leo, every career she studied has contributed to what has become her passion. On one side, she says gastronomy has a place in Economics because it is a too for transformation and economic development. On the other side, Advertising has been key to identifying positioning strategies, which has sort of guaranteed her success.
When talking about visual arts she gets more excited because it has helped her see cooking as a creative process that involves a deep language and goes beyond social change. “Creative process gives context and make things visible. I make art through cooking”, she concludes.
Leo Espinosa is the owner of “Leo Cocina y Cava”, a restaurant in Bogota that has been awarded many times, like in 2007 when it was listed as one of the world’s 80 best restaurants by a renowned British magazine. It was also listed as one of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America in 2014 and 2015.
Besides her restaurant, one of the things she’s most proud of, and why she received the
“Basque Culinary World Prize” is the Leo Espinosa Foundation which she created 10 years ago. “It was a vision that came from a trip I made around Colombia that made me understand gastronomy could reduce poverty”, she explains.
From her point of view, “Funleo” which was born when gastronomy wasn’t considered a way of development, has become the thing that supports her cuisine and basically every aspect of her life. Through her Foundation she develops projects that impact indigenous, rural and afro communities by helping them identify and appropriate their own gastronomical wealth while making it their livelihood.
That’s why she’s right when she says her work is not choosing pans and cooking, but she goes beyond “My work’s essence is altruistic because through what I make and express, I have to involve others in a social process. That’s my philosophy” concludes Leo, who will keep on making gastronomy a process of social change.