Leonor Espinosa, World’s Best Chef 2022: “My Kitchen Tastes from Forsaken Cultures… from Pain

by France Press agency

From its jungles to its deserts: The world’s best chef, Leonor Espinosa, draws her inspiration from Colombia’s vast biodiversity, agonizing history and often neglected traditional societies.

Not only a chef, but an activist as well, she has traveled all over her motherland to study indigenous cuisine and give a voice to people who feel left behind in areas plagued by poverty and decades of violence.

“My kitchen savors the discarded cultures, the forgotten regions, the taste of ancestral techniques, the smoke… of pain,” said the 59-year-old. France Press agency In Bogota after she was voted Best Chef in the World for 2022 by the panel that chose the 50 Best Restaurants in the World.

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“It is also the taste of delight, bananas, cassava, the soil after rain and the desert ecosystem. There is a lot of hair in my kitchen.”

In naming Espinosa the winner, the Top 50 called her “a multi-talented Colombian chef who marries art, politics, and gastronomy.”

At her restaurant Leo in central Bogotá, she added, “She has forged a unique, cerebral and deep culinary style that distinguishes her from her contemporaries, at the same time striving to use gastronomy as a tool for social and economic development.”

– self-made –

Born in Cartagena in the southwest of the country, Espinosa grew up in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast and taught herself cooking.

She studied economics and arts and worked in advertising before moving into the kitchen at the age of 35.

In 2017, she was named the Best Chef in Latin America.

To give her restaurant a lively, original, farm-brand menu, she has crossed over to Colombia to document its culinary history.

She has incorporated many traditional ingredients into her repertoire – everything from exotic fruits and Andean tubers to ants and caterpillars, and traditions taken from the bush and served to the city’s five-star palates.

Spinoza’s agenda of exploration and upgrading often took her to parts of the country marred by Colombia’s civil strife nearly 60 years ago.

Much of this work has been done with the Funleo Foundation, which was created in 2008 and awarded the Basque Culinary World Award nine years later to advance the gastronomic traditions of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.

“The award highlights those societies that struggled for years to recognize the value of their ancestors and their contribution to national cultural identity,” Espinosa said at the time.

“It’s a way to ease the silence caused by armed conflict, injustice and exclusion.”

Espinosa said, with her nose rings and a shy smile France Press agency That any cook worth their salt is also an anthropologist, political scientist, and artist.

If the chef is a woman, then the skin should be thick and firm.

Espinosa said of the difficulties she has faced, that while women have traditionally been responsible for food in Colombia, the world of haute cuisine has always been male-dominated.

But it wasn’t easy to put it off.

She said, “I’ve been very clear since childhood that I wouldn’t be what other people wanted me to be.” France Press agency.

“I am who I am… I am rebellious, disrespectful, inquisitive.”


Not only a chef, but an activist as well, she has traveled all over her motherland to study indigenous cuisine and give a voice to people who feel left behind in areas plagued by poverty and decades of violence.

The 59-year-old told AFP in Bogota after she was voted Best Chef in the World for 2022 by the committee that elected The 50 Best Restaurants in the World.

“It is also the taste of delight, bananas, cassava, the soil after rain and the desert ecosystem. There is a lot of hair in my kitchen.”

In naming Espinosa the winner, the Top 50 called her “a multi-talented Colombian chef who marries art, politics, and gastronomy.”

At her restaurant Leo in central Bogotá, she added, “She has forged a unique, cerebral and deep culinary style that distinguishes her from her contemporaries, at the same time striving to use gastronomy as a tool for social and economic development.”

– self-made –

Born in Cartagena in the southwest of the country, Espinosa grew up in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast and taught herself cooking.

She studied economics and arts and worked in advertising before moving into the kitchen at the age of 35.

In 2017, she was named the Best Chef in Latin America.

To give her restaurant a lively, original, farm-brand menu, she has crossed over to Colombia to document its culinary history.

She has incorporated many traditional ingredients into her repertoire – everything from exotic fruits and Andean tubers to ants and caterpillars, and traditions taken from the bush and served to the city’s five-star palates.

Spinoza’s agenda of exploration and upgrading often took her to parts of the country marred by Colombia’s civil strife nearly 60 years ago.

Much of this work has been done with the Funleo Foundation, which was created in 2008 and awarded the Basque Culinary World Award nine years later to advance the gastronomic traditions of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.

“The award highlights those societies that struggled for years to recognize the value of their ancestors and their contribution to national cultural identity,” Espinosa said at the time.

“It’s a way to ease the silence caused by armed conflict, injustice and exclusion.”

With her nose rings and a shy smile, Espinosa told AFP that any cook worth their salt is also an anthropologist, political scientist and artist.

If the chef is a woman, then the skin should be thick and firm.

Espinosa said of the difficulties she has faced, that while women have traditionally been responsible for food in Colombia, the world of haute cuisine has always been male-dominated.

But it wasn’t easy to put it off.

“I was clear from childhood that I would not be what others wanted,” she told AFP.

“I am who I am… I am rebellious, irreverent, inquisitive.”

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