Chef Alvaro Clavijo and Ivan Cordoba with his wife Maria. Right, Envuelto with curd and plantain, one of the dishes capable of telling the story of Colombian ingredients and traditions. Photos: Annalisa Cavaleri
Chef Alvaro Clavijo has made another leap forward at his El Chato in Bogotá, moving from 7th to 5th place in the Latin America's 50 Best. A success planned and conquered day after day, since the chef is a perennial traveller, madly in love with Colombia and every inch of this magical land, where an unimaginable biodiversity reigns.
The dining room at Mitù in Milan - Photo: Annalisa Cavaleri
For this occasion, the chef participated in two 'Amazonian' dinners in Milan, a city that has somewhat adopted him given he is the consultant of Mitù, a Colombian restaurant owned by Ivan Cordoba, a historic and very strong Inter defender, now sports manager of Venezia and also a restaurant entrepreneur together with his brother Andres Cordoba, the architect who designed the restaurant, Food and Beverage manager Luca Monica, and Filippo Ingraffia, lawyer and founder of law firm IlaLex.
Chef Alvaro Clavijo shows a chayote - Photo AC
Ivan Cordoba with his wife Maria at restaurant Mitù in Milan - Photo: Annalisa Cavaleri
'My journey of discovery into the biodiversity of Colombia will never end, it is such a rich land that as you delve deeper into ingredients and traditions, you realise that you are only scratching the surface, that you can go deeper, and deeper,' Alvaro Clavijo says enthusiastically. 'There are countless stories of ancient rituals and traditions from the past. In Colombia, the influences from various Amerindian civilisations, European settlements, African slaves and immigration from Europe and the Middle East are constantly touching and mixing. Right now, I am particularly delving into the African origins of Colombia. It is not often talked about, but, for example, in the north of the state there is San Basilio de Palenque, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, which is an enclave of Africa in Colombia where they speak a unique language where Portuguese and Castilian are mixed with Bantu languages. This common thread, which takes me to the oldest traces of our past packed with different influences, binds all the dishes in my cuisine too. Diversity remains the greatest wealth, culturally and in cooking'.
Alvaro is volcanic and really cares about his land. His ethical, culinary and communicative drive enraptures you. Like when he arrives at the table holding a chayote (a name of Aztec origin), a sort of large round cucumber from the Cucurbitaceae family, native to Mexico and Central America, which the chef uses for an excellent chimichurri to accompany shrimp empanadas, pulled pork or Colombian sweet potato. ‘You didn't know it, did you? I wanted to show it to you’ and holds the round vegetable as a precious trophy.
Shrimp and chimichurri empanada - Photo AC
‘We are Colombians, we love our homeland and we wanted to create an authentic restaurant in Milan. Authenticity is the key word when you enter Mitù,’ say Ivan Cordoba and his wife Maria. 'We have lived in Italy for many years and we realised that in Milan there were Mexican, Japanese, Chinese... in short, all kinds of restaurants, but nothing from Colombia. We felt we had a responsibility and were eager to tell the story of our country in its deepest and most authentic nuances. The masks you see on the walls, for example, are original. The same goes for the jugs, the plates, and every accessory you find on the table. Getting to know Alvaro was a revelation. When we visited his restaurant El Chato, we were struck by a large wall full of small bottles, full of different spices, each one catalogued with obsessive attention and notes with name and provenance. A marvel. The same passion and research is on the menu at Mitù'.
On the walls, original masks from Colombia - Photo AC
Envuelto, curd and plantain
Arroz with rabbit and vegetables - Photo AC
Sea bass, yam, anchovy pil pil and green papaya - AC Photo
The main course is to be shared, as the sunny and welcoming spirit of this population would have it: in a large bowl, round brown rice, fried artichokes and green beans, very soft marinated rabbit, and a slightly spicy sauce are mixed together. Surprisingly, the “meat” texture is given by the particular cooking of the vegetables. The picanha with ant sauce, a strong and deep flavour, is intense, and reconnects us to the earth.
Today, chef Alvaro Clavijo is fifth in the Latin America's 50 Best - AC Photo
Representing Clavijo cuisine, Sea bass with slices of yam, anchovy pil pil and green papaya. We end with a - once again – unusual dessert: maize, already the protagonist in an exceptional breadbasket, returns in a sweet shape in Maize panna cotta with lemon sorbet and salted Colombian cheese crumble. If food for you means travel and discovery, Mitù is the place for you.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Reviews, recommendations and trends from Italy, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose
Leonor Espinosa at Identià Milano 2023
Leonor Espinosa and Fatmata Binta, both special guest speakers in the Auditorium at Identità Milano 2023: the Colombian chef will give a talk with her daughter Laura Hernandez on Sunday 29th January at 3.40 p.m.; the Sierra Leonean chef on Saturday 28th at 4.20 p.m.
Jaime David Rodriguez Camacho, chef and patron at restaurant Celele, the main signature cuisine restaurant in Cartagena de Indias, Caribbean Islands, Colombia