Interview with Catalina Osorio

Chef (Colombia)  

Catalina Osorio

Chef (Colombia) 

Catalina Osorio is a Colombian chef noted for her work with international and national celebrities, earning her recognition in the world of gastronomy and entertainment. 

She has cooked for stars such as Beyoncé, Mr. Paul McCartney, Metallica, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, ManuChao, among others, offering customized menus according to the needs and preferences of each artist. For example, for Beyoncé, Catalina prepared a healthy menu with white fish, zero fat, green vegetables, and natural protein juices, respecting the specific requirements of the artist, such as the inclusion of spicy food and jalapeños, without alcohol in the dressing rooms. 

Her excellence in the kitchen and efficiency in the production and preparation of dishes have positioned her as a chef of choice for celebrities seeking a quality dining experience during their visits to Colombia.  

Catalina Osorio has not only left a mark in the kitchen but also in the way she promotes Colombian gastronomy, leaving a positive impression of Colombia through her cuisine.

What motivated you to pursue this career and how did you take your first steps in this field? 

It was something I wanted to do since I was a child, I used to draw myself as a little girl with a cooking hat, and since my mom had a bakery I went every time I could, they didn't let me do much except shelling eggs, folding boxes and serving people, but I remember the faces of the people when they came out with their cake and that made me very happy.

And how in my house all day long they would talk about food and how tasty it was and how people were happy something stuck. It was from childhood.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?  

The opposition, no one gave a peso because I was a cook, everyone thought it was a whim, that since I was 27 years old and Colombia was going through a situation of violence without words, that was my escape from the country and to remain single hahaha. 

As they say, taking the bull by the horns and doing everything to finally get them to agree was very complicated, but if what moves you is your passion, you get there because you get there. 

Is there any achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?  

During the pandemic life changed a lot for all of us and one of the most affected sectors was the food and beverage area and during that time I was invited to a Facebook group to give a cooking class one day and this became in 38 days in a row a recipe book in PDF, I never imagined it and today four years later I still meet people who approach me on the street and tell me thank you, Thanks to you I know how to make rice and that is what reinforces every day more and more why I took this decision to be in the kitchen, to be able to contribute a grain of sand to improve the quality of life of people.  And what could have been a time of total nightmare was a reencounter with my passion.

Who have been your biggest influences or mentors in your career?

From my house my dad who was a psychiatrist said that the biggest problems came from home and revolved around food and my mom heard that and decided that the food in the house should always be spectacular and look at the result of that combination me the daughter passionate about cooking and determined to transmit that love and the importance of it.

Where does your inspiration for new projects or work come from?

From my clients who challenge me at every moment and let my creative side flow and go with the flow. I love that so when they tell me to pass me a list of menus I can't because I love to have some kind of connection with people so I can read it and capture their desires in that plate of food. 

Can you share how is your creative or work process from the initial idea to the final realization?

The client contacts me and we talk a bit about the type of event they are going to hold, their tastes, their hates, and in some way what would be ideal for them, at this stage I can start designing the menu, and I like to work from the main course out, meaning that with the main course chosen I work on the appetizer and dessert, this being the most difficult because it must be a perfect closure, it is the one that will make the event unforgettable.  

What do you think will be the next big trends in your field? 

Wow anything can happen, but I think that new gastronomic options are emerging especially in Latin America because we are feeling proud of our gastronomy and we saw that first revolution that caused Mexico, then Peru and we are seeing that around us there are many flavors that surely had been stored for a long time and already lost their worth and we want everyone to try them or at least that's what I feel in Colombia is a revolution that comes with great force and people will want to devour Latin America. There is a lot to do.

How do you manage to balance your professional life with your personal life? 

That is difficult, cooking is like having a child that demands you 24/7 and always demands more, it is never enough and it is difficult to understand. People often don't understand. What I have done is that for special dates I celebrate them several days before or a few days after but on the official day it is impossible and the people close to you take a course of adaptation and patience.  After a while it is not easy to understand.  And I have a rule that I don't cook one day a week so I can dedicate some time to what is really important. 

I think that cooking is as demanding as being a doctor in completely different fields and finding a balance is not easy but it can be achieved. With time,

Are there any principles or values that you consider fundamental in your work? 

If I don't feel 100% in the mood I avoid going into the kitchen because I know that things are not going to turn out the way they should and I must always give my best or it doesn't work, but I think that's a general rule in life and punctuality, everything has to be in the right place at the right time for everything to be perfect. 

As a teacher of mine used to say, we are not gods because we are not perfect but we are demigods because we have the ability to transform food and that makes us handle a greater responsibility.

How do you think your work affects society or culture?

I think it makes those moments around food create lifelong memories and I hope they are pleasurable in general and bring a smile to your face when you remember them.   Colombian cuisine has a rich culinary tradition.

How do you balance tradition with innovation in your dishes?

I feel that the traditional flavors are precisely the ones that should endure, and what I can play with a little more is their presentation and incorporating some element that creates a surprise factor, but tradition is tradition. For example, if I serve an ajiaco bogotano I know that it must have guascas, three types of potatoes and chicken and I must leave it with those flavor bases because that is what people expect, people are not expecting turkey instead of chicken and only one potato because it would no longer be ajiaco and it would become the ajiaco of tasting. That is why we must be extremely respectful of them and be very clear about it.    

Colombia is known for its diversity of ingredients, is there any local ingredient that you consider underestimated and that you like to incorporate in your creations?

 There are so many but I'll be honest in my case it's the ripe plantain.  In Colombia we mix sweet and salt, for example we love a good cup of chocolate and we put melting cheese inside and it is perfectly delicious, the world looks at us with a crazy face and for us it is a balance of sweet and salty. 

In the case of ripe plantain I have found that it creates an excellent marriage with many dishes and always surprises. How do I tell people if we were raised with ripe plantains, why wouldn't it taste good and that's where people lose their fear of those flavors that I love in the kitchen at home, what a delight to be able to offer that from your home and that makes it more special.  

Colombian gastronomy is the result of a mixture of cultures.

How do these diverse cultural roots influence your work?

In my kitchen you can see it because my mother is from the coast so she brings that flavor of the coast, that direct mixture of black slaves with Spaniards and indigenous people, but that is where the first mixture of flavors begins, for me it is like the place with the most intense flavors, more passionate where everything has flavor someone knows a woman from the coast in Colombia and you can feel the flavor they have seasoning in their blood and the food from the coast is delicious because they are real flavors there is no need for chili that is something 21st century and on the other hand my dad from Antioquia paisa lover of the arepa and beans with softer flavors more sparing but still delicious.  So you find them because they are marked flavors and made with a lot of seasoning, and these characteristics are present in my food very well defined within a subtle softness. 

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges in promoting Colombian cuisine internationally? 

Many cooks still feel that they have to copy their neighbors and have not understood the richness of what they are, their flavors, their traditions and how valuable these preparations are, making them unique.  We need to believe more in our gastronomy and although we already have several restaurants in the worlds 50 best and best woman Chef in the world, there is much to come so get ready for many more surprises. 

Do you use any innovative culinary techniques or advanced technology in your kitchen? Could you share an example?

My most advanced culinary technique is to try to imitate my ancestors to bring out the real flavors, to understand why you cook for eight hours and not five, to not rush processes, to find the best ingredients and to share with the world the step-by-step of what I do so that when they replicate it, it evokes such a special moment.  Food can be a powerful tool for social change.

How do you think Colombian gastronomy can contribute to society? 

Because it is a perfect opportunity to bring out what you know best which is your home and if you can share the flavors of your home you create pride in your identity, roots and where you come from, and having proud people contributes to the growth of a healthier and more positive society And finally, as a chef and as a Colombian.

What should we drink on our trip to Colombia? 

Drink mmmhhh what a question hahahaha I would say an aguardiente if you are looking for an alcoholic drink is key because each department (state) has its own version, but really what you will fall in love with is to try at least three natural juices is the country of fruits and here you drink juice every day and all possible fruits A curuba sorbet, a soursop juice or a lulada. That will make you fall in love.

For further information:  @chefcataoso 

Catalina Osorio, with her tireless dedication and deep love for Colombian cuisine, is charting an extraordinary path that not only illuminates the culinary richness of her country but also serves as a beacon for the next generations. His approach is not limited to reviving traditional recipes; he ventures further, fusing contemporary techniques with Colombia's indigenous flavors, thus creating a unique gastronomic experience that greatly enriches the culinary landscape. Her work not only embellishes the gastronomic scene but also motivates future generations of chefs, both in Colombia and around the world, to explore and revalue their culinary roots with an unparalleled sense of pride and audacity.

Our conversation with Catalina Osorio has opened doors for us to understand not only the complexity and richness of Colombian gastronomy but also its vibrant future, all seen through the eyes of one of its most fervent ambassadors. She embodies the passion and commitment necessary to innovate and preserve the culinary heritage, ensuring its transcendence and relevance in a globalized world. Through her efforts and creativity, Catalina is shaping a legacy that goes beyond the dishes she creates; she is forging a new gastronomic identity for Colombia, one that dialogues with global trends without losing its essence and authenticity. 

This dialogue between the traditional and the modern, which Catalina so skillfully orchestrates, promises a bright and exciting future for Colombian gastronomy, inviting everyone, both locally and internationally, to rediscover and fall in love with the unique flavors that Colombia has to offer.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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