Espacio Dolli, Buenos Aires
Dolli Irigoyen was exposed to extraordinary Argentine produce from an early age, growing up between orchards and dairy farms in General Las Heras, a town less than 70 kilometres from Buenos Aires. But as she hunted hare and picked sweetcorn alongside her family, it would have been difficult to imagine the impact this early imprint would have on the life of the cook now crowned one of the most iconic in the entire Latin American continent.
After a brief stint as a primary school teacher, Irigoyen started a business baking and selling cakes to local restaurants from her own home – she was 25 and a mother of two. Soon she was asked to take over the restaurant of the local sports club and began discovering the joys of working with local farmers. She began to ask them to grow certain produce she wanted to use in her dishes, and she also saw the positive impact of introducing her customers to new ingredients that they would in turn buy from the farmers, supporting their livelihoods.
The chef’s first foray into television came after she was hired by supermarket chain Carrefour to improve their fresh produce department. One day, she recalls, she was simply asked to cook a dish in front of a camera – and this simple act opened countless new doors.
Over the years, Irigoyen perfected the use of the TV medium to communicate gastronomy to a wider audience. With Argentine TV channel Utilísima, she produced various programmes in which she travelled the length and breadth of the country to shine a spotlight on its diverse pantry. Later, she became a leading figure of El Gourmet TV channel, with her explorations taking her further across the Latin American continent, and her cooking programmes – in which she appears, always smiling, showing how to make the most of local ingredients in simple meals – gathered a loyal following in Argentina and beyond.
Irigoyen was never just a chef. A skilled communicator with natural charm and a down-to-earth attitude, she made it her mission to tell the story of her country through its food and dishes, even when most of the Argentine population was looking the other way. She was a columnist for national newspaper La Nación for four years, and she has published several books, from Producto Argentino (Argentine Produce) to Cocina para Todos (Cooking for Everyone).
Today, 50 years into her career, Irigoyen is still as active as the home baker she once was. After briefly owning a restaurant in Buenos Aires until 1998, she now works from a space known as Espacio Dolli, featuring a test kitchen, culinary school, events space, library and store. She appears as a judge in TV programmes such as MasterChef Celebrity Argentina and Bake Off Argentina, and recalls with pride how she presided over Argentina’s committee in the Bocuse d’Or international cooking competition.
But the chef never tired of cooking. Travel around Argentina and you may still run into Irigoyen popping up at restaurants across the country alongside famous chefs, eating in local markets and wandering agricultural fields. Other times, she’ll be cooking for celebrities at the Latin Grammy Awards, but it’s precisely this unique combination that makes her so relatable – and such a popular winner of the Icon Award 2023.
Learn more about Dolli Irigoyen in the article and watch the video: