You have probably thought of Costa Rica as a destination to do rafting, ziplining, and to visit its beaches and volcanoes. Apart from boasting all of these activities and natural beauty, it is now becoming a culinary destination. It makes sense that a country blessed with fertile volcanic soils and Caribbean and Pacific coasts would have the most amazing fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood on hand.
What does the new Costa Rican cuisine look like? If Chef Randy Siles is any indication, its innovative, eco-friendly and socially conscious. He took a recipe handed down from Colonial times, “Arroz con Leche” or Rice Pudding, and turned it into “Tico Crème Brulee Rice Cream”, served with different fresh tropical fruit like pineapple, passion fruit and blackberries. He always tries to use locally harvested ingredients and buys produce and fresh fish and poultry from local farmers and fishermen, for the restaurant at Hotel Tropico Latino in Santa Teresa, Pacific coast of Costa Rica, where he is head chef. He also noticed most of the employees working in restaurants in the Santa Teresa Community came from other countries and seized the opportunity to give back by creating an academy to train locals in the culinary arts to work as servers, cooks and more.
Alfredo Echeverria, from HRS Hospitality Group and one of the proponents of the National Plan for Healthy and Sustainable Gastronomy of which Randy Siles is flagship chef, explained how they signed an agreement with the National Tourism Board in order to position gastronomy as part of Costa Rica’s brand. Some of their activities include weekly guided visits to the Central Market in downtown San Jose as well as culinary laboratories where local plants are harvested and provided to chefs to create menus with native plants.
Randy Siles travels to different cities in the United States and Europe on a monthly basis as part of the Tourism Board’s efforts to promote Costa Rica as a culinary destination. He cooks and gives lessons for journalists and other guests who help spread the word about the interesting dishes being created in a sustainable manner.
Be sure to maximize your visit to Costa Rica to the fullest by indulging in the freshest of ceviches, the most creative salads, lovely desserts made with tropical fruit and locally harvested cacao beans. Don’t forget to wash your meal down with fresh cocout water (known as “pipa”), a “guaro sour” made with sugar cane liquor, or a craft beer from one of the small local breweries.
Article by Katie Widdowson