Saturday, December 12, 2015

Private Restaurants Rescue Cuban Cuisine

Private Restaurants Rescue Cuban Cuisine / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa
Posted on December 11, 2015

14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Havana, 10 December 2015 – Denia Sao
Blanco has spent over 20 years teaching top level native cuisine at the
Casa del Chef in Holguin, an institution created to maintain and rescue
the culinary culture of the region, where several generations of cooks
have trained.

As part of her work, she has visited all the restaurants in town and has
offered advice on the preparation of the dishes. Now, she is surrounded
by young people completing a cooking course she taught this week. The
final exam is to prepare a typical Holguin dish.

In this conversation with 14ymedio Denia speaks of tradition, culture
and mistakes in the culinary arts in the region.

Donate Fernando Ochoa. How is culinary research conducted at La Casa del

Denia Sao Blanco. It is the work of several cooking teachers along with
the students. New generations of cooks do not know the history and
Holguin recipes that are always the basis for the rescue of these dishes.

It took us a few years trying to rescue these dishes at different
events, like "Young Chef of the year" and "The Flower of Cuban Cuisine,"
which has run since 1992 and is only for women professionals and
amateurs, regardless of age.

DFO. What traditional dishes are prepared in Holguin now?

Denia Sao Blanco. There are many, among them is the "465," created by
Ramon Carbonell, which includes chicken, ham, pork steak grilled and
served with vegetables. We offer it here for 30 pesos national currency.

Another is chicken "a la Periquera" created by José Rafael Pernas
Iglesias, and "Paneque" sausage created by the late Rodolfo Gonzalez
Paneque, founder of our social house.

DFO. Do Holguin restaurants keep typical native dishes on the menu?

Denia Sao Blanco. Unfortunately not. Very little is being done with
these dishes. On the Holguin restaurant menus international cuisine
predominates at the expense of traditional dishes. For example, the
customer can't find guava in syrup with cheese, jam with cheese, rice
pudding, which are some of the basic dishes of our cuisine. This shows
that there is a lack of knowledge about how to make these dishes; we are
losing our identity.

In most restaurants, the customer finds the same menu, there is no
variety, no dishes that identify a restaurant. Cooks appeal to the
easiest, such as fried chicken, roast chicken and steak.

DFO. In your exchanges with students I heard about rice with chicken…

Denia Sao Blanco. I talk to my students about rice with chicken because
it is not common to see it on restaurant menus. However, when it is on
the menu it is not prepared like it should be, because they do it with a
by-product mixed with rice; meanwhile in other restaurants they mix
shredded chicken into the rice which is a mistake. The traditional plate
is chicken cut into eighths with the chicken on the base of the plate,
covered in rice and a crown of hard cooked egg with strips of bell
pepper. This is the real chicken with rice and it is not seen in most

DFO. What are the consequences of turning to easy cooking?

Denia Sao Blanco. Tradition is lost because each dish is, as we say,
"its name and surname"; each course was designed, studied, approved and
patented in order to maintain its identity and characteristics.

Holguin has little culinary culture left and this ignorance prevents
people from demanding originality in the food they put on the table.

DFO. What do think about State restaurants?

Denia Sao Blanco. They have lost their originality and identity in the
dishes offered, because the administrators who run the State restaurants
do not know cuisine and because they don't know it they can't demand it:
for them all the dishes are well prepared.

DFO. Is it the same with the private restaurants?

Denia Sao Blanco. These are different, because they deliver the
originality of the dishes quite well. The owners and chefs come to ask
us for evaluations and suggestions, which the managers of State
restaurants do not do.

Another positive aspect is that private restaurants have created new
dishes that distinguish them, and this does not happen with the State
restaurant. So I think that, with the opportunity to privatize the
restaurants, Cuban cuisine has gained in quality, originality and variety.

DFO. What else restricts the freedom of creation in the places managed
by the State?

Denia Sao Blanco. There is no freedom of creation because the cooks are
required to abide by a technical chart and the products available are
very limited and of poor quality, while the private restaurants are
always looking for the best merchandise, the freshest produce and they
maintain an original menu.

Another aspect that affects State restaurants is that the supply of
spices and condiments is sometimes insufficient, forcing chefs to buy
these products paying out of their own pockets.

Source: Private Restaurants Rescue Cuban Cuisine / 14ymedio, Fernando
Donate Ochoa | Translating Cuba -

No comments:

Post a Comment