With unseasonably cold weather this past Memorial Day, at least by Southern California standards, Outstanding in the Field and the LA Times Food Bowl hosted a special collaboration with chef Rodolfo Guzmán on Weiser Family Farms in the Kern County area of Tehachapi. Those who checked the forecast are bundled in scarfs, caps, and thick jackets, but some weren’t as wise. Guzman is cooking a big Chilean-style dinner inspired by his restaurant Boragó in Santiago.
A South American barbecue pit sits at the center of the gathering, and only one person seems to be unaware of the cold. Wearing just a long-sleeved shirt and plain apron, Guzmán carefully monitors the pair of Sonoma lambs that have been roasting for the past 13 hours on crosses.
The last time Guzmán cooked in Los Angeles was in 2013 at Playa on Beverly with John Sedlar (which closed only months after Guzmán’s appearance). Back then, Angeleno diners were just beginning to hear of South American chefs like Francis Mallmann, Alex Atala, and Virgilio Martinez thanks to shows like Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
Since then, Guzmán’s Boragó has risen to number four on the Latin America’s 50 Best list and number 27 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Guzmán is shoveling hot coal over a pre-Hispanic Chilean pit barbecue preparation called curanto chilote, a native tradition that dates back at least seven thousand years, and as many as 10 thousand. Inside the underground pit, he’s placed dough-covered fish heads, meats, seafood, vegetables, and tubers. And that’s in addition to those two Sonoma lambs roasting on the spit. Eater caught up with Guzmán to discuss the reinvigorated interest in South American cuisines in between frozen pisco shots.
On the changing perception of Latin America and especially South American cuisines in LA, especially since his last visit in 2013:
Guzmán: We changed, we have evolved. We are so excited to be here, but this time I have more of a feeling of LA, and I’m excited to share with people up in the U.S. what we are doing at Boragó.
BE: South American chefs have opened restaurants in the US, recently, especially in Miami, and soon coming to New York and Los Angeles.
Guzmán: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and Enrique Olvera.
On the future of South American, and Latin American cuisine in LA:
Guzmán: I’m very proud of my friends. I think it’s a wonderful thing to unify the Americas — you know, we are Americans, too. Time to time we forget.
BE: I don’t find South Americans food to be too radical, but still, Americans in the U.S. don’t understand or know Colombian, Brazilian, or Chilean food that well.
On Guzmán’s message to American diners about South American cooking:
Guzmán: South American food is great. We have very unique ingredients, and in Chile we have unique ingredients that don’t exist anywhere in the world, even different from other Latin American countries. That’s what makes is special, about the whole Latin American movement. Now it’s moving forward, and I’m excited.
On whether Guzmán would open a restaurant in Los Angeles:
Guzmán: I’m excited to maintain what we have. We’re a big team. We have big responsibilities at the moment at Boragó. And we used to be four people in the kitchen and now we’re 40. From all over the world they come and learn what we are doing. I think I have that responsibility first, and maybe we’ll consider other projects in the future but for now we are busy with what we are doing there.