What’s the concept? Celebrity chef Leonor Espinosa’s flagship restaurant showcases little-known Colombian ingredients such as corozo fruit (a tangy red berry), arrechón (an aphrodisiac drink) and bijao (a banana-like plant), while championing local communities and gastronomic traditions. Since opening Leo she has had a great influence on Colombian cuisine and indeed other cooks, winning the title of Latin America’s Best Female Chef in 2017 and being voted by her peers as the Estrella Damm Chefs’ Choice in 2020.
The chef and the space: An economist and artist by trade, Espinosa’s love of anthropology, contemporary art and culture is evident in both her cooking and her restaurant. Previously housed in a bright, cosy room adorned with bold paintings, restaurant Leo is in the process of relocating to a larger space that Espinosa is remodelling, set to open in early 2021.
What’s the deal with those big-bottomed ants? The chef crushes the shells of ants from the Santander region to make a crunchy, nutty coating. Then the ants’ bottoms (like tiny snail shells) are placed as garnish on the side of the dish.
How the menus work: Leo’s current menu traverses Colombia’s ecosystems, exploring the ways new species can be used in the kitchen. The origin of each ingredient is represented on a map of Colombia that shows how far the chef has travelled to source the unique products used at Leo. Those not wanting to sample the extensive wine menu can go for the non-alcoholic drinks pairing, which includes refreshing options like corozo berry juice or a corn drink.
Bonus point: In 2007, Espinosa created the FunLeo foundation with her daughter – and Leo’s sommelier – Laura Hernández-Espinosa. Today, the non-profit continues to identify, reclaim and promote the culinary traditions of rural and ethnic communities while promoting their wellbeing and health.