Yesterday, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants announced that Leonor Espinosa, the chef-owner of Leo in Bogotá has been named the “World’s Best Female Chef.” Previously named Latin America’s Best Female Chef in 2017, Espinosa has become one of the most important personalities in Colombia through her hard and consistent work, not only celebrating local Colombian products and flavors but highlighting the value of the country’s biodiversity and social aspects of gastronomy.
A key figure in Colombia’s food renaissance, Espinosa relocated and reimagined her flagship restaurant just last year and it was subsequently voted #46 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2021. At the new venue, Espinosa has crafted a tasting menu with 100% of the ingredients sourced within Colombia and each dish forming part of a broader Colombian food narrative. The gastronomic experience focuses on the country’s varied ecosystems, exploring the ways new species can be utilized in the kitchen.
In 2008, Espinosa founded the non-profit Funleo with her daughter, Laura Hernández-Espinosa, Leo’s head sommelier. The mother-and-daughter team have helped to unveil some of the secrets of indigenous ingredients and ancestral techniques providing inspiration for Leo’s unique menus. Today, Funleo continues to identify, reclaim and promote the culinary traditions of rural and ethnic communities while promoting their wellbeing and health, with programs enhancing the use of autochthonous ingredients across the country and empowering the groups towards food sovereignty. Each ingredient’s origin is highlighted on Leo’s menu, such as pulantana from the desert and cacay and cnopio from the Andean foothills.
Aside from running Leo and Funleo, Espinosa has helped build support for the establishment of a Comprehensive Gastronomy Center in Golfo de Tribugá as an alternative framework for people affected by or involved in drug trafficking, and has also campaigned to raise awareness on Colombia’s culinary riches, with her work encouraging communities to turn their cultural heritage into a tool for socio-economic development.
William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “Leonor Espinosa has become one of the most iconic Latin American chefs of her generation, championing both Colombia’s biodiversity and its cultural diversity like no other. We’re thrilled to be able to recognize her incredible work.”
The Best Female Chef Award series continues to recognize industry-leading female chefs blazing a trail for their peers.