Who are the best chefs in Caracas

The most famous chef in South America doesn't care about fame - and that's a good thing!

No chef is more present in the Latin American mass media than Sumito Estévez: He is the presenter of several TV programs, writes cookbooks and is the face of numerous brands. But this famous chef doesn't care about fame. It is much more important for him to shape a cooking philosophy in which ethics are more important than celebrity.

I don't have false modesty. I know that I have achieved a lot for the Venezuelan gastronomy scene and that there is a "before" and "after" my work as a chef.

For years I split my time between the kitchen, television, radio stations, publishing houses and newspaper offices. I really enjoy cooking, but I always had the feeling that I had to communicate that too; that I have to convert others to it - even when I was a physicist, before I became a cook.

Laureano, my manager, once said to me: "If you had remained a physicist, you would have had a radio show, a TV show and a column in a daily newspaper about physics."

I studied physics because I enjoyed it. My father is also a physicist and I've been involved with this topic since I was little. As I was sending my thesis to my university, I saw an interview with Franz Conde. He was for a Haute cuisineFestival has come to Venezuela. That was in 1989. Out of curiosity, I went to the restaurant where he was cooking. I was very impressed because I didn't even know it was even possible to cook so perfectly. It was like a slap in the face when this world opened up to me.

It was love at first sight. I never intended to be unfaithful to physics. I was in a crisis and had to choose a path. It was hard to choose, but I did the right thing.

Six years after changing my career, I opened my first own restaurant, Sumito in Mérida. From then on, my career developed rapidly. I did a couple of internships in kitchens in New York and L.A. and in 2003 I got my first own TV show, Puro sumowhich aired across Latin America. Then I hosted the weekly show Nueva Cocina Latina on the Spanish television channel Canal Cocina. During those years I started numerous culinary companies. I became the host of a radio show called Diary of a boss and I started a column in the daily newspaper El Nacional to write.

Yes, I am one of the chefs with the largest media presence in Latin America. But in doing so, I am helping to make cooking more popular as a profession in Venezuela.

I tell my students to ask themselves: Do my actions have a negative impact on other people financially? Are my actions harming the planet? Did my actions make anyone sick? Have I culturally deprived someone by my actions?

When the kids saw cooks on TV, they wanted to be cooks too. That is part of my achievement. But there is more serious matter behind this.

I don't care to be famous. I just want to be a good cook and behave ethically. Now that Venezuela is producing top notch chefs, I want them to understand that cooking is a profession, not just a way to get famous.

So I've funded two cooking schools — one in Caracas, which operates on the traditional educational system, and one in Margarita, where I only accept 54 students from across the country each year. It's a bit more like one Ashram: Those who are accepted must follow our philosophy.

The first thing I do is teach my students that as chefs they should be true to their culture because cooking is a cultural practice. We should be clear about where we stand and through our professions we should make a cultural contribution to our country. At the same time, we should be aware of the community, our neighborhood, the producers and the employees. People play an important role.

I also want them to understand that cooking is a profession. The easiest way to explain it is: “If you are a carpenter, you learn a trade. You are not a doctor of carpentry and specialize in ivory. You are preparing to open your own shop. "

I ask them to document everything they do. If you search for "Norway" on Google, you will get a lot of results related to Norwegian culture. If you search for "Venezuela", however, the first thing you will find are reports of violence and food shortages. But our kitchens can change that and ensure that the focus is not always only on the dark side of our country. That being said, I think it's important to document things. A friend once said to me: "Knowledge is an individual act, but intelligence is a collective one."

I tell my students to ask themselves the following questions before doing anything: Do my actions have a negative impact on other people financially? Are my actions harming the planet? Did my actions make anyone sick? Have I culturally deprived someone by my actions?

I ask myself these questions all day. I don't have the power to lift someone out of poverty, reverse climate change, or cure a sick person, but at least I can't make it worse. I don't cook an animal that has died under stress. That's why I have such difficulty cooking beef because cows suffer so much in the slaughterhouse. I never cook when I'm in a bad mood because I'm afraid that it will carry over to the food. I don't waste food, that's why my trimmings are so ugly - I hate radish florets because half the product goes on just to make the plate look nice.

It cannot be that aesthetics trumps poverty.

When I leave my country, I scatter breadcrumbs like Hansel and Gretel: I leave breadcrumbs of my culture behind so that I can find the way back to my homeland - but also so that others want to visit Venezuela and see that there is far more gives what defines the country as just violence.

Recorded by Issa Plancarte

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