Interview with Luis Fernando Ramírez Dávila

An innovative and visionary chef

Luis Fernando Ramírez Dávila

An innovative and visionary chef

In this interview, we are honored to speak with Luis Fernando Ramírez Dávila, a prominent Colombian chef and business administrator. 

With a background in prestigious international institutions and a deep passion for cooking, Luis Fernando has fused global culinary techniques with the unique flavors of the Colombian Pacific region. 

As Chef Director of Alquimia Cocina Estudio and Academic Leader of Comfandi's National and International Gastronomy School, he has taken Colombian gastronomy to new heights. He shares with us his vision, experiences and culinary philosophy, offering an intimate look at his innovative approach to gastronomy.

How would you define yourself as a chef and what is your philosophy?

My culinary philosophy focuses on respecting and valuing local produce. I work directly with local markets to ensure that every ingredient in my kitchen is of the highest quality and freshness. I believe in generating innovative culinary experiences that integrate international techniques and flavors with local Colombian products. Creativity and innovation are fundamental pillars in my cuisine, always seeking to surprise and delight my guests with unique and memorable dishes.

Values and principles that guide my work:

In summary, as a chef and entrepreneur, I am committed to culinary excellence and the promotion of Colombian gastronomy globally. My culinary philosophy and values reflect a deep respect for the product and a passion for innovation, creating gastronomic experiences that celebrate the cultural and natural richness of Colombia.

What is it and what inspired you to create Alquimia Cocina Estudio?

Alquimia Cocina Estudio is a space for gastronomic experiences, a workshop that connects the kitchen with people to create unique and memorable moments. Here, gastronomy is lived and enjoyed, transforming each culinary activity into an opportunity to learn, share and celebrate the richness of our flavors and traditions.

The creation of Alquimia Cocina Estudio arose from my passion for gastronomy and my desire to share the rich culinary diversity of Colombia. I have always been a creative person, looking for new business opportunities. I envisioned a niche in gastronomic experiences, both for tourists and the general public, that goes beyond simple food and creates unforgettable moments.

Inspired by the idea that cooking is a space to connect people, I wanted to offer a participatory experience where friends, co-workers, families and couples can gather and enjoy cooking together. My international background allowed me to see the potential of combining global techniques with local flavors, generating memorable experiences.

Alquimia was designed to foster collaboration and fun, with activities ranging from cooking in pairs to exploring local markets and preparing Valle del Cauca menus. My goal is for Alquimia to become a benchmark for Colombian gastronomy, standing out for its quality, commitment to sustainability and promotion of local culture.

How has your training in Modern Argentinean Cuisine and Grilling Techniques influenced you?

My training in Modern Argentine Cuisine and Grilling and Asado Techniques at Gato Dumas has been fundamental to my culinary style. It has given me a deep understanding of grill handling, which is a complex skill. The handling of meat, especially beef, from the time it is purchased from the producer until it is served to the diner, involves very precise processes to get the best out of it. Understanding and managing these processes has allowed me to develop a special skill and taste for this activity.

What techniques and knowledge did you acquire at the Basque Culinary Center and Cebanc?

The seminars held at Cebanc and the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian have also been fundamental in my training. The most relevant part of this experience was to understand the care and affection for the product in the Basque Country. I have always said that in many places they have shown me what ingredients and spices a dish has, but in San Sebastian they taught me to take them away. I learned that a product should taste like what it really is, respecting its own nature. This formed me as a cook with a sensitivity deeply rooted in respect for the product, a philosophy that I carry to this day.

How have you integrated the techniques of Creolle and Cajun cuisine?

Understanding Cajun and Creolle cooking techniques at the New Orleans School of Cooking has had a significant impact on my culinary style. This training has helped me to be very adventurous in the kitchen, to mix flavors and explore new spices. Creole cuisine, like the idiosyncrasies of New Orleans, is very joyful and inspiring, with a fusion of French, Spanish, Native American, African and even German and Italian nuances. This indescribable mix can only be fully understood by experiencing it first hand.

Thanks to this experience, I became a chef who deeply respects the product, but also dares to generate new and inspiring experiences and flavors. 

What inspired you to specialize in the art of caramel and artisanal chocolate making?

At Alquimia Cocina Estudio, working with artisanal chocolate and caramel is fundamental to our desserts, adding a personal and distinctive touch that captivates our diners. Colombia is known for its exceptional chocolate origin, and in our desserts, we always seek to highlight this local richness in some way.

This brings an authenticity that is appreciated by those who visit us. Each dessert at Alquimia is meticulously designed to offer a unique sensory experience: from the silky texture of the chocolate to the perfectly balanced sweetness of the caramel.

Our focus on these ingredients goes beyond simple preparation; it is a celebration of craftsmanship and passion for cooking. The result is desserts that not only delight the palate, but also tell a story of dedication and love for local products.

What are the most innovative culinary activities?

At Alquimia Cocina Estudio, our dining experiences are profoundly innovative, designed to foster interaction between partners, couples and friends through cooking. Our most requested activities include special classes for couples, where you not only learn to cook together, but also strengthen your bond by sharing an intimate culinary experience. In addition, our tapas and cocktail sessions offer the opportunity to explore and experiment with a variety of flavors, learning how to pair food with drinks in a creative and fun way.

Bachelorette parties are another of our highlights, transforming these celebrations into unique gastronomic events. Here, friends can enjoy a fun and meaningful culinary experience before the big day. Each activity is carefully designed to promote collaboration, creativity and, above all, fun, making Alquimia an ideal place for those looking to explore cuisine in a dynamic and memorable way.

When focusing on the cuisine of the Colombian Pacific, what are the main challenges?

At Alquimia Cocina Estudio, focusing on the cuisine of the Colombian Pacific means promoting the exotic and ancestral flavors of our region both nationally and internationally. This gastronomy is infinitely rich in flavors and culture, characterized by the mixture of spices, coconut, fish, seafood and various meats of our region, which makes it a deeply authentic and unique cuisine.

Promoting Pacific cuisine means not only highlighting its flavors, but also promoting an entire region. At Alquimia, many chefs work with dedication to position this cuisine at the level of the best in the world. Each dish we prepare is a celebration of our culinary heritage, taking our guests on a gastronomic journey that honors and preserves our traditions while we innovate and explore new possibilities.

Could you share an example of a typical Pacific menu?

This season's menu at Alquimia Cocina Estudio begins with a unique experience of the Colombian Pacific. We begin by taking our diners to the market square, where they explore, taste and discover the tropical products of our region. After the market experience, we head back to Alquimia to prepare a delicious Pacific-inspired menu.

To start, we serve a refreshing fruit cocktail that captures the tropical essence of the region. As a starter, we prepared exquisite plantain canastitas accompanied by a shrimp encocado, a traditional coconut-based sauce that enhances the local flavors.

As a main course, we offer an atollado del valle, a robust and unctuous dish similar to European rice dishes, but with flavors and ingredients typical of the Colombian Pacific.

To conclude this culinary experience, we present a delicious pandebono cake with ice cream. Pandebono is a traditional breakfast pastry from our region that perfectly complements the sweet end of our menu.

Each dish is carefully designed to highlight local ingredients and offer an authentic and memorable dining experience.

Our goal is that, through each culinary experience, the cultural richness and biodiversity of the Colombian Pacific is recognized, contributing to the recognition and valorization of our gastronomy in the global panorama.

What has been your greatest learning experience in implementing innovative strategies in the gastronomic sector?

My greatest learning in countries like Argentina, Peru, Spain and the United States was to understand that cuisine can be an innovative experience and a means to spread tourism and the identity of a society. These countries are clear about this concept in a more organic way.

I think I have managed to link the real experience of cooking with people, allowing them to live that moment as something genuine and meaningful. At Alquimia Cocina Estudio, we not only seek to feed our diners, but also to make them live gastronomy as part of a moment of life.

Cooking thus becomes a cultural bridge, a tool to tell stories and connect people with the richness and diversity of our region. Each culinary experience at Alquimia is designed to be lived and remembered, offering an authentic immersion in the flavors and traditions of the Colombian Pacific.

As the academic leader of Comfandi's National and International Gastronomy School, what initiatives have you implemented to promote culinary education in Colombia?

The academy is fundamental for the growth of gastronomy. From my position as an academic and teacher, I have sought to make Colombian cuisine an essential part of the school's teaching. It is not just a matter of dedicating a few hours, but to include a complete module of study, since our gastronomy is very broad and important. It is crucial that students fall in love with their land and their roots.

Research also plays a vital role. Understanding the development and history of our cuisine makes us more robust against other more well-known gastronomies. In short, it is a matter of believing that our gastronomy has the stature to compete with any cuisine in the world.

Teaching and promoting Colombian cuisine in academia not only preserves our traditions, but also inspires new generations of chefs to innovate and elevate our gastronomy to an international level. Through education and research, we are building a solid foundation for Colombian cuisine to be recognized and valued globally.

How do you balance your role as Chef Director of Alquimia Cocina Estudio with your academic responsibilities?

Being the director of Alquimia Cocina Estudio and, at the same time, having academic responsibilities has helped me develop very important skills. First of all, staying in teaching forces me to always be up-to-date, to constantly research and understand the global changes in the culinary world.

This duality of roles allows me to combine practice with theory, integrating the latest culinary trends and techniques into our experiences at Alquimia. Teaching keeps me in contact with new generations of chefs, which gives me a fresh and innovative perspective that I constantly apply.

In addition, this constant connection to academia helps me identify opportunities to improve and expand our offerings at Alquimia, ensuring that we are always on the cutting edge.

What impact do you hope to have on the local community through your activities?

Being able to work with local producers and farmers is something that has always interested me. Initially, we are working with local markets, but the goal is to collaborate directly with farms that produce their own products. This issue is not easy, as in many cases the producers cannot meet the quantities we demand, or in others, the supply is too large for our consumption.

As a leading chef in my city, I have been looking for linkages between different restaurants to acquire products from local farms and try to adapt our menus to what the farmers have available. In addition, we are looking for state support to make this chaining a citywide and circular economy issue.

I know it is not easy, but with commitment and a proper social culture, we will gradually strengthen the gastronomic cluster in our region. This effort will not only benefit the restaurants, but will also support local farmers, promoting sustainability and the quality of the products we use in our cuisine.

How do you see the evolution of Colombian cuisine in the coming years?

The evolution of Colombian cuisine is advancing by leaps and bounds. We have learned from nearby references such as Mexico and Peru, but Colombia is carving its own path. We have outstanding chefs in the main cities of the country who are doing a colossal job, and the new generations are concerned about making our cuisine a world-class product.

My role as a chef is aimed at making both the tourist and the local public recognize our cuisine as an exotic product of incomparable flavor. I want every bite to be a taste experience, reflecting the richness and diversity of our gastronomy. Through my work, I seek to elevate Colombian cuisine, showing the world that it is worthy of being among the best and that it can offer unique and unforgettable culinary experiences.

And finally, how do you think Colombian cuisine can influence and enrich Latin American cuisine as a whole, and what opportunities do you see for collaboration between chefs in the region?

Colombian cuisine is a fundamental pillar within Latin American cuisine. Our Spanish heritage connects us with many of our neighbors, sharing similar preparations with countries such as Peru, Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico. In addition, our location in the tropics provides us with an incredible diversity of fruits, vegetables and spices, allowing us to incorporate new and exciting elements into our dishes. This richness offers us the opportunity to work on innovative concepts alongside chefs from other sister countries.

My focus has always been on tourism, and I am convinced that, if as a region we consolidate ourselves as an attractive gastronomic destination, this will be reflected in significant growth for all of Latin America. By working together, we can highlight our rich culinary diversity and attract more visitors, strengthening our economies and celebrating our cultural heritage. Collaboration between our countries will allow us to create unique gastronomic experiences that will put Latin America on the global map of haute cuisine.

We conclude this interview by thanking Luis Fernando Ramírez Dávila for sharing his time, knowledge and vision with us. His dedication to the promotion of Colombian gastronomy and his commitment to culinary innovation are truly inspiring. It has allowed us to learn not only about his background and training, but also about the passion and values that guide his daily work. 

We wish Luis Fernando and Alquimia Cocina Estudio a future full of success and expansion, bringing the flavors of the Colombian Pacific to an ever-growing global audience. Thank you for this enriching conversation!

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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