Rodolfo Angenscheidt, top chef in Paraguay, talks to Leading Edge about his transition from TV cheffing to running the restaurant Tierra Colorada, and gives his realistic assessment of Paraguayan cuisine taking to the world stage
Leading Edge (LE): How did you become a mega-chef?
Rodolfo Angenscheidt (RA): I always loved cooking and my family never stopped supporting me. Even when I was young, I was an avant-garde cook. I went to a double-shift school and when I got home, I was so hungry, I just started to cook with whatever was in the house. When I was 19, I decided to go to Paris to do Maxim’s cookery courses. I did internships in different restaurants belonging to the chain and also in the Paris Ritz. Later, I went to London and worked in Le Gavroche, with French chef Michel Roux and then with the British chef Gordon Ramsey.
I opened a hotel in Buenos Aires and worked in various other restaurants, until in 1994 I decided to return to Asunción and open the Mburicao restaurant, where I worked for 15 years. I’m still a partner but now I don’t do any cooking. I always wanted to teach others about everything I had learned and so I signed a contract with a television channel. I was the first man to have a cooking programme on the television in Paraguay.
LE: How have you been able to export Paraguayan cuisine?
RA: It is still not exported; that’s my dream. We started in Peru, in Lima, and afterwards I went to Madrid and other places too. My dream, and that of many others, is that in the same way you can now eat carpaccio and ceviche anywhere in the world, you will be able to eat typical Paraguayan dishes across the globe.
LE: How did Tierra Colorada start?
RA: We opened the restaurant in 2010, purely as a result of my own passion. It was formerly the house of one of my old school teachers, and as there was no asphalt on the road, I decided to call it Tierra Colorada. I managed to get a loan, and the first years were difficult, but now everything is going well and I have paid everything off. We are first on Trip Advisor and for me, that is an honour, as that is based on tourists’ and customers’ ratings and there is no interference from the restaurant.
I saw there was a gap in the haute cuisine restaurant market. Paraguay is the heart of South America and we do what we can with our ingredients; we adapt. When I was on television, making two or three dishes a day, during those 18 years I created lots of new dishes, and now they are part of my repertoire. Not all chefs are creative, but with what little I had, I created new dishes until we were on the path to success. When I started the restaurant, I wanted to give a Paraguayan touch to the food, not just cook the normal classic global dishes such as risotto, pasta and ceviche. Today, our menu has starters that are based on indigenous dishes, from the Guaranis and the Toba, such as mbeyú, which is prepared when a male child is born into a family; it is a festive dish to celebrate union and the family. Here we make it with other types of cheese and it has a different taste. I’m planning a new dish today, with cassava, cicadas and cod. I’m going to cook it when I visit Spain; it will be a delicious but simple dish.
LE: What do you think has to be done so that Paraguayan cuisine takes root in the world in the same way as Peruvian cuisine?
SRA: It is possible to copy and adapt many things that other countries have done, like Peru and its Peruvian Gastronomy Association and Bernardo Roca Rey. We are doing something similar here in Paraguay, but we don’t have a Bernardo Roca Rey. However, we are making great efforts. It is something for the long term, and we need to think where we want to be in 10 years’ time. It would be difficult to do the same as Peru, as they have amazing geography and the people are proud of their cuisine. Paraguay isn’t the same, and we don’t have a consolidated circuit to help us get to that level. We are just starting and we shall see what happens in the next five years; but what we do have is a lot of enthusiasm.