Noma co-owner Claus Meyer’s new restaurant, which is being pitched as a spot that will revolutionize the culinary heritage of one of the poorest countries in South America, is set to throw open its doors next month.
After two years of preparation, Meyer’s Gustu restaurant will welcome its first guests next month in a gastronomic and cultural experiment that aims to do more than just serve gourmet meals to an unlikely clientele: in the same way that celebrity Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio restored culinary pride in his country’s food heritage, Meyer is hoping to kickstart a movement that eventually revs up the country’s economic engine and advances social equity.
Steering the kitchen will be Danish chef Kamilla Seidler and Michelangelo Cestari of Venezuela, both of who have worked in Michelin-starred restaurants.
The ambitious project is part of Meyer’s Melting Pot foundation, which aims to improve the quality of life for vulnerable and marginalized peoples through food and entrepreneurship.
With Danish NGO IBIS, the foundation has also been operating a cooking school for low-income young people in La Paz over the last year, in preparation for the restaurant opening.
Gustu will be staffed by 23 young cooks, servers and bakers aged 15 to 19.
Following the food philosophy of Noma — which is credited with blazing a culinary trail in New Nordic cuisine – the menu at Gustu will likewise promote local, traditional and seasonal products.
The effort to elevate Bolivian cuisine into a source of national pride comes in the complete absence of any kind of food identity in the country, says Meyer.
Food TV programming is non-existent, as are any kind of food heroes, while Western food influences are poised to threaten local food cultures and trigger obesity and diet-related illnesses.
Meanwhile, the project isn’t without its controversies.
Despite its good intentions, the concept – and by extension the food — may prove difficult to swallow for local Bolivians given that the average dinner is expected to cost between $50 and $60 per person – astronomical given that minimum wage in the country is about $143 USD a month, reports The New York Times.
Likewise, 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, particularly the country’s indigenous communities.
A sister bistro and bakery, meanwhile, will serve more affordable foods and meals.
Gustu will begin taking reservations April 1 at email@example.com. The restaurant will host a series of ‘dress rehearsal’ dinners beginning April 4 until it opens its doors to the public April 18.