Carolina Bazán wants to show the world that a restaurant is more than the dishes it serves. It is also the story of the people who sacrifice their blood, sweat and tears to fuel its success, with a passion that doesn’t wane in the face of difficulty. For her, gastronomy is a life-long love story that she could never give up. So when she became a mother she had to find ways to excel as a chef at the same time as enjoying a busy family life.
Her two restaurants in Santiago, Chile – which she runs alongside her business and life partner Rosario Onetto – have to share the chef’s attention with her two children, four-year-old Iñaki and three-month-old Mia. Juggling commitments as different as sourcing fresh vegetables at La Vega Central Market, breastfeeding Mia, paying producers, tucking Iñaki into bed and writing the ever-changing restaurant menus, Bazán wants to inspire women in gastronomy and beyond to dare to balance a demanding career with the desire to be a parent.
As a young kid, Bazán would have much rather been in the kitchen helping her mother cut mushrooms and peel prawns than at her desk doing homework. Studying gastronomy was the natural choice for her, and when an opportunity came to lead a restaurant kitchen at the age of 23, she readily accepted it.
The first incarnation of Ambrosía, which Bazán operated with her mother, was a lunch spot where the young cook had a chance to learn, through trial and error, what it’s like to run a brigade, while preparing homely recipes that became highly popular among the local office workers. But in 2010, Bazán had to listen to the part of her that told her there was more she could do.
Sending herself to train in France, she worked alongside acclaimed chef Grégory Marchand at Paris restaurant Frenchie. Here, she discovered a new approach to produce and to the craft of gastronomy that would change her outlook forever. Returning to Chile in 2013, she followed her gut to create a new version of Ambrosía, in a different location in Santiago, where she showed her true passion for the culinary arts.
The new Ambrosía is a homely space where pure and intense flavours take centre stage. Focusing exclusively on fresh produce, which she sources from La Vega Central Market and a network of trusted producers, Bazán articulates her taste for international flavours in seasonal menus that highlight the best seasonal ingredients.
Inspired by her travels and culinary research, Bazán creates new interpretations of dishes that often surprise her customers. At Ambrosía Bistro, which opened in 2017, she serves a sea urchin dish that was influenced by Japanese and Asian flavours. Chilean sea urchin is combined with dashi, katsuobushi, nori, shiitake and miso, creating strong umami notes. Although diners are sometimes suspicious of her exotic preparations, the chef highlights that many overcome their preconceptions to order the dish again and again.
Bringing her restaurants to the heights of the culinary world while also balancing the needs of a young family, Bazán is a role model who aims to use her position as Latin America’s Best Female Chef to inspire all those juggling their career and personal life.
Take a look inside Ambrosía and get to know Bazán in the video:
Now read the interview with Carolina Bazán