Leo: Latin America's Best Female Chef

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A pioneer in the local movement to promote Colombian cuisine by showcasing its rarest ingredients, chef Leonor Espinosa is the female equivalent of Peru’s Gaston Acurio.

  Amasijo de sagú , or dough made of sago palm, paired with a sauce of  guasca,  begins the meal at Espinosa's flagship restaurant, Leo.

Amasijo de sagú, or dough made of sago palm, paired with a sauce of guasca, begins the meal at Espinosa's flagship restaurant, Leo.

Espinosa’s work spans over a decade of introducing unexpected elements like fermented coca, pirarucú (an Amazonian fish), crushed ants, and other savory surprises at her Bogotá restaurant, Leo. Her dishes evoke tradition while utterly redefining it, and this has granted her international status in addition to elevating Colombia’s gastronomy.

 For the second appetizer, red pelagic crab, mandarin lemon, basket pepper, and coconut milk.

For the second appetizer, red pelagic crab, mandarin lemon, basket pepper, and coconut milk.

 To follow, the first entree, an Amazonian fish with Amazonian nuts, "sour yucca," and "fish-eye chile."

To follow, the first entree, an Amazonian fish with Amazonian nuts, "sour yucca," and "fish-eye chile."

Among her latest acknowledgments is the award for Latin America's Best Female Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a list sponsored by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, as well as the Basque Culinary World Prize, presented to chefs who improve society through their cooking.

 Tiny bites follow with a mini "taco" with  momposina  duck sauce and a  cariaco  corn tortilla.

Tiny bites follow with a mini "taco" with momposina duck sauce and a cariaco corn tortilla.

For her most recent culinary proposal at Leo, entitled Ciclo-Biome, Espinosa and her daughter, Laura Hernández-Espinosa, examined the diverse Colombian ecosystems in search of potential species to incorporate into their cuisine.

 Another view of the savory  momposina  taco.

Another view of the savory momposina taco.

Supported by biologists, producers and farmers, the result is an arrangement of local products that recall and honor ancestral flavors.

Ultimately, the goal of the mother-daughter duo is to support the well-being of small producers and their communities by introducing these flavors directly onto the palates of open-minded locals and curious tourists. restauranteleo.com