When people meet Kamilla Seidler for the first time, they’re often baffled: who is this pale-skinned, blonde-haired Danish woman with perfect Spanish at the helm of Bolivia’s No.1 restaurant? But the unlikely champion of Bolivian cuisine has done more for gastronomy in her adopted country in recent years than any local chef, earning herself the title of ‘Dane of the Andes’.
When she received a life-changing phone call in 2012, Seidler’s cooking career was already on firm footing. She had worked in some of the world’s best kitchens, from Mugaritz in San Sebastian and Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, to Paustian and Geist in her native Copenhagen. She was back in the Danish capital when Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma, offered her the opportunity to help start a socio-culinary project in La Paz. After passing an interview that consisted of cooking for Meyer at his family home, she set off to South America – for the first time ever – with her business partner, Michelangelo Cestari. Six months later, Gustu was born.
Keeping a menu 100% Bolivian at the country’s most successful fine dining restaurant is somewhat of a challenge, but it’s one to which Seidler is firmly committed. With a huge sense of responsibility to farmers and producers across the country, she wants to make sure a fair price is always paid and that local workers receive an education as well as an income. This means developing dishes based on whatever the farmers want to sell, be it not-so-dainty purple potatoes or huge quantities of alligator.
A combination of natural talent and culinary creativity allows Seidler to transform the most basic Bolivian products, like anticuchos, or beef heart skewers, into beautiful dishes fit for the fine dining table. But her success goes beyond the restaurant and across South America, where she spends time travelling to study and educate people to use the right products responsibly. It’s this combination of culinary skill and social commitment that have helped earn Seidler her reputation as one of the finest cooks in the region and, now, the esteemed title of Latin America’s Best Female Chef.
Seidler will collect her award at the fourth annual Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony in Mexico on Monday 26th September.
Calacoto, Calle 10 No. 300 (casi esquina Ave Costanera)
La Paz, Bolivia
+591 2 2117491