Before we start: Rodolfo Guzman, chilean 41 years old chef, previously worked in Chemical Engineering and Bioprocesses at the Catholic University of Chile, specializing in microstructures, and has been a participant in researches of neurology, psychology, nutrition, and others. He has also been a part of the team of the legendary Mugaritz restaurant in Spain. Since 2006 he owns his Borago restaurant - one of the most contemporary, innovative and surprising restaurants of Latin America and the world.
Rodolfo, was the profession of the chef your dream or it happened occasionally?
I’ve never thought to become a professional cook, it just happened in this way. One of the reasons was the one that I’ve left my home country being very young for the USA and I was looking for any job possible in order to gain some money. I started as a dishwasher, and then ended up making desserts. After I came back to Chile to study but continued to cook. But at that time the food itself was not so important in Chile, people were more fancy about other stuff.
And has the situation changed over this time? Maybe, people are more curious about the food and what they eat now?
Oh yes, it has all changed in 360 degrees. It’s totally different as now gastronomy is taking many roles in the life of Chile as a country.
So, even the “quality” of the clientele has changed, maybe? There are more gourmet visitors, I swear?
Definitely like this. At the beginning, there was no desire of the chefs to work with the local produce, go deep to discover it, even though geographically Chile offers an enormous variety of the very special ingredients to work with. When we opened Borago, everyone used ingredients from abroad, we had so many ethnic restaurants but we never felt that it was our way, we wanted to be attached to our land, our products and traditions.
So, you and Borago, recalling natural and local ingredients have been something new and special, standing from the crowd, right?
You know, at the begging the restaurant was empty, quite for 2 years. We suffered, as for cook it’s the most difficult challenge not to have clients. We had so many debts in banks, quite at the position of the bankruption. I was afraid to end up in jail even, that’s why I tried to sell the restaurant but even there was no client for it. But, after that time, everything started to change and all what was negative became suddenly positive.
Was there any special reason why it all changed?
It was all because of the guide "Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants". I even couldn’t believe that after appearing in the guide, our restaurant switched from the empty “road” to the very “busy” one with the reservations many months in ahead. It allowed us to assume new foragers and scientists, new local producers.
Today, we are a team of nearly 200 people all together, some of them work with me from the very beginning as my chef de cuisine.
What do you think about this Restaurant Guide’s effect: many chefs, after receiving an important achievement, tend to spend less time in the kitchen and more in the TV shows. Don’t you find it incorrect?
Well, I can only talk about my personal experience as to me the fact of being mentioned in the guide barely saved my restaurant. So, I guess, it’s all about finding the balance between the time for work in the kitchen and the time to spend out of the restaurant but spreading our message to the people all round the world, making them discover what we do.
For me, I feel that I was born to be the cook and I crazily love what I do and if I am not in the kitchen - I truly suffer.
What is the most difficult thing about being a chef?
Dealing with yourself. As a chef, you must work more than your team which always looks at you, you must accept your background, your roots and you must be devoted. So, I don’t think that it’s possible to become number 1 in something if you are not passionate enough about what you do. Being successful is about happiness, I believe.
The last question, as the tradition says, a romantic one. What makes Rodolfo Guzman happy?
Obviously cooking, my family and my 4 children thanks to whom I feel the luckiest person.