calle 65bis # 4-23
Born in Cartago, in the Cauca Valley, in 1963, Leonor Espinosa's vocation came rather late in life: before turning her hand to cooking, she studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Cartagena de Indias - the pearl of Colombia's Caribbean coastline, a country that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Pacific, south of the Panama Strait - and economics at the Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar. A curious and multifaceted profile, developed before she became interested in catering, in 1998, at the age of 25.
A quarter of a century later, Leo restaurant in Bogotá is on the list of the world's most acclaimed restaurants: 48th in the global 50 Best and 13th in the continental Latin America list. For technical skills, certainly – Espinosa was also voted Best Female Chef 2022 by the same institution – but above all for her willingness to showcasing like no one else the cyclobiome of Colombia. This country boasts one of the densest animal and plant biodiversities in the world, a heritage of which we still know very little because, in fact, the equatorial country only emerged from a dark multi-decade civil war in 2016.
Leo is the restaurant that best expresses mestizaje, the melting pot of a country that overlaps Amazonian, Andean, Caribbean, Pacific, Arab, African, Spanish and indigenous influences. Above all, Leo and her daughter Laura, in charge of the newly-opened La Sala de Laura, on the floor above the more celebrated restaurant, turn the spotlight on all those actors who belong to small minorities, long relegated to silence. Invisible African and indigenous communities, plagued by problems of social violence and deprived of their basic resources. Four hundred and fifty thousand people belonging to 81 ethnic groups, speaking 64 different languages. An anthropological and cultural heritage kept under wraps until just three decades ago.
“Cooking is an important social vessel,” Leonor explains whenever she can, “because it can help solve a country's problems. By supporting them and the plant and animal species they care for, we can protect precious communities, promote the country's food security, and write our complex culinary identity”. A mission that earned her the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize in 2017. She also pursues these themes every single day as president of Funleo a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the social welfare of ethnic and rural communities. Espinosa is also the author of two important books: 'Leo el Sabor' and 'Lo que cuenta el caldero'.
The cuisine of restaurant Leo in Bogotá
Cooking as redemption for invisible communities: the example of Leonor and Laura in Bogotá
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.
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Paolo Marchi’s words representing the Identità Milano 2023 congress. All photos from Brambilla-Serrani
Leonor Espinosa at Identià Milano 2023
Some of the speakers who will talk in the Auditorium at the 18th edition of Identità Milano, from the 28th to 30th of January
THE FULL PROGRAMME HERE
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