Class of 2021
In the remote mountain village of Mesitas del Colegio, some 60km from the Colombian capital, Jennifer Rodriguez has created a culture that celebrates local produce, traditions and ancestral cuisines. Brought up on hearty regional dishes like sancocho chicken stew that her grandmother Virginia cooked at her restaurant, Jennifer fell in love with cooking and opened her own restaurant, Mestizo, in 2009. Using products harvested by village farmers to create dishes that celebrate local stories, she is helping to promote the region’s cuisine while exploring undervalued and unexplored Colombian ingredients.
One of Jennifer’s proudest achievements is Pancoger, an initiative that came about during the pandemic to help locals while keeping her own business alive. After tourism was abruptly halted, Mestizo was on the verge of bankruptcy, but the chef developed a range of artisanal bread products and delivered them to locals who couldn’t get to the restaurant. She also began delivering boxes of local produce to help support farmers. Her profile was raised in 2012 when she won the TV cooking show Cocineros al Límite, drawing attention to her work. It enabled her to travel across Latin America to further her knowledge and techniques before bringing them back to Mesitas del Colegio.
“My goal is to strengthen our rural identity, promoting sustainable projects that safeguard our traditions and ensure food security for our community.” – Jennifer Rodriguez