This article first appeared in our September/October 2016 issue.
By Chris Moss
Chef Soledad Nardelli, 37, celebrates the vast and varied regions of her native country at her acclaimed Puerto Madero restaurant, Chila, from where she produces a stridently contemporary cuisine based around local produce from small suppliers. Acclaimed abroad and at home, she has played host to the likes of Ferran Adrià, Martín Berasategui and Anthony Bourdain, and she is a regular on Elgourmet TV channel.
Chila is the only restaurant with a female chef to appear in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 list. Soledad is also an executive chef of the Tapiz winery’s Club Tapiz hotel and restaurant in Mendoza.
Buenos Aires is slowly making itself known as a gastronomic destination… on the rise, full of opportunities, not only in Argentina, but also across Latin America.
Argentina is a young country in every sense… this year was only our bicentennial [of Argentina’s independence]. We’re just beginning to appreciate the food we cook in our own restaurants and to value our local produce. Our cuisine is a rich mix of influences from Argentina’s regions – which have very defined identities – and from all the countries where Argentines have migrated from, especially Italy and Spain, but also The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. Our meat, too, is key here – the culture of the barbecue, of fire.
Gastronomy is travel… and ours is a big, biodiverse country, with mountains, ocean, jungle, Pampas, deserts and long borders with Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay. All these give us ingredients. From the north we get beans, potatoes, maize, yacón (a sweet-tasting tuber) chayote (similar to squash) and peppers; from the riverbanks come fish, tropical fruits, manioca and cane sugar. In the south and along the Andes we have soft fruits, winter’s bark, Araucanian pine nuts, olives and, of course, wine.
Very few Argentine chefs are women… but I’ve never felt any different from men in terms of ability or strength. You invent your own differences. I believe cooking is a maternal urge – to feed is a mother’s gift, and men don’t possess that.
My motto, which I fly like a flag, is… meat is important in Argentine cuisine, but we’re not only made of meat.