FROM BARRANQUILLA COLOMBIA TO NEW YORK CITY.
Chef Stephanie del Carmen started LaTropikitchen in 2017 as a personal research project to explore the origins of Latin American cooking. However, her journey into this culinary world started years before adulthood. As a young girl living in Barranquilla, Colombia, Stephanie would watch her maids cook dishes that were only passed down by word of mouth. No recipes were followed. Nothing was measured. Everything was done from memory and with muscle memory. One more pinch here, a few more seconds on that, a little more heat there. The dishes came to life with beautiful richness and color. The Caribbean dynamism and vibrancy all in a ready-to-eat delicious meal. This was what she wanted to devote her time to. Time passed and the economic realities of Colombia at the time pushed Stephanie into pursuing one of only a few safe career paths. In a country with limited opportunities, cooking was not a viable option. She decided on law. In 2009, Stephanie completed her studies and moved to the United States to learn English. It was there, in the cold wintry city of Chicago, that Stephanie dabbled in various jobs to explore some other interests in marketing and design and gain proficiency in English. She certainly did. Stephanie learned English in less than a year. In 2012, Stephanie began dating her future husband and was eager to continue exploring the world by his side.
Figuring out $hit!
2 years later, a relocation for her, now, fiance's job moved Stephanie to the Big Apple. New York City. It was an unexpected move and one that pushed Stephanie to start anew in the big city. Interestingly enough, while still in Chicago, she had met a very nice family who owned restaurants in New York City. While she settled, they offered her a job at one of their very own restaurants. This as it turned out, would become part of her destiny. While working at the restaurant Stephanie decided to take up some classes in graphic design and marketing. Still not exactly sure where her journey was taking her, working at the restaurant rekindled some old flames and ignited something within her. One night she had a dream and awoke knowing what her next step should be. She presented her, now, husband, a bold idea - culinary school at one of the United States' top culinary programs. He agreed, they applied and she was accepted. After a year in the Institute of culinary education ICE, Stephanie excelled so well that she was offered an internship position at the best restaurant in the world in 2018 - Eleven Madison Park. She declined. Knowing she wanted to focus on Latin American cuisine and something so dear to her heart, she passionately followed the top Latin chefs in their quests to elevate their region's food to the world stage. A stage dominated by France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and really few others. She chose to work at Cosme, a Mexican kitchen founded by renowned Enrique Olvera and led by now the best chef in the world, Daniela Soto-Ines. Under their leadership and technically trained at a top culinary program, Stephanie continued to learn and sharpen her skills. Finally, in 2018, Stephanie left the restaurant to focus exclusively on her personal research project
A New Challenge
A concept that was conceived as a young girl but only now had grown roots. Enthusiastic about what was to come, Stephanie took every opportunity she could to travel throughout caribbean and explore the most remote communities and learn from their rituals surrounding the food they ate. These indigenous communities had preserved the centuries-old pre-hispanic recipes by word of mouth. They used ingredients so native to the local land and with such biodiversity, the flavors were limitless. A true loss from mass-commercialization that had standardized our diets and food options in modern society. Learning first hand was a true joy and a real opportunity to bring that wealth of knowledge, that was so quickly disappearing, into the leading edge of the culinary world. After cooking for friends and family and experimenting with all she had learned, Stephanie visited Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, NY and promised to her husband that one day, we'll be here representing our culture. That dream came true in 2019, when after a tasting, Stephanie was invited to participate at Smorgasburg, a world stage for upcoming food concepts. We are now at the present day, and Stephanie and her project, LaTropikitchen are here with us today back in Barranquilla, for Sabor Barranquilla so that Stephanie can teach us a thing or two about her research along the way. Our hope is that this too can be preserved for generations to come. Stephanie currently is contributor as a recipe developer and test kitchen at the magazine "Put an egg on it", a leading independent publication based in brooklyn with international distribution.