Manuel Perez Bella (EFE) writes about Dominican chef María Marte, her return to Jarabacoa, and the María Marte Foundation.
When she decided to take the road back to her roots in the Dominican Republic leaving behind the kitchen of Madrid where she achieved fame, chef María Marte undertook another return trip, a culinary journey to the past, to the indigenous roots of Dominican cuisine. “I am focused on working and scrutinizing, investigating everything that is our gastronomy, what are our products, also those of our ancestors,” explains Marte in an interview with Efe in her hometown, Jarabacoa, a peaceful mountain town surrounded by fertile Vegetable fields that have now become the raw material of her particular gastro-laboratory.
THE TAINO ROOTS OF DOMINICAN GASTRONOMY
It was a culinary journey to the past, precisely, that gave the chef a root, the guáyiga, a basic ingredient in the diet of the Taíno Indians, but which fell into oblivion after colonization, although it has left its mark on the gastronomy of the Caribbean country. The guáyiga, according to Marte, is a tuber with which the Taínos made “their bread,” the casabe, a crunchy cake that is still present on the Dominican table but is currently made with cassava flour. “As a cook, first of all, I want to give a very important twist to Dominican cuisine,” argues the chef, who has in her plans to prepare a 16-course tasting menu, “all authentic from the Dominican Republic, obviously transformed into haute cuisine.”
Marte aspires to “reinvent” Dominican cuisine and ensures that the cuisine of the country is distinguished by its “special flavors,” which she attributes to the quality of her land. “Our land is very productive and what happens in my country, I feel it has a very special flavor, which is no less than the land itself. As it is said here, we are a blessed land. And I think that the flavor of Dominican cuisine is the hallmark that identifies it and, above all, makes it special in relation to other countries,” she elaborates.
THE CHEF “WARRIOR”
María proudly speaks of the decision she made a year ago to leave the prestigious Madrid Club Allard restaurant, where she arrived as a dishwasher and left as head chef and with several awards in the backpack, to devote herself to new projects.
“I don’t regret it at all. The other day I thought that I had hustled in a year what I had not hustled in 16 years in Madrid. The changes are for the brave. In the end, I consider myself a warrior, a brave woman, obviously, I have a story that defines everything, and those changes for me have been nothing more than growth, professionally, emotionally and especially personally.
Apart from her culinary research, Marte runs a kitchen company dedicated to private events, with which she works mainly in Santo Domingo and in the hotels of Punta Cana. “The truth is that we are doing very well. The cuisine of the Dominican Republic has advanced a lot. People love the theme of tasting menus and every day more. And that was something new in the Republic,” she says. The chef reveals that she plans to open a restaurant, although she still does not want to give details or even reveal yet in which country she will be located. “A chef like me can’t stop thinking, can’t stop creating, can’t stop doing; We don’t stop,” Marte says.
Marte, who had a humble origin, says that she remains involved with the solidarity projects she promotes in Jarabacoa. “It is one of the most important bases, of the things that move me the most,” she explains. With the money she received for an award, the chef began supporting a cooking school for girls with few resources in Jarabacoa and has already helped three of them to travel to Madrid to study. “What I want with this is that real professionals leave, from a school, from a place like the Allard Club, that they leave there with a title under their arm, which is what I never had, which is not a secret to anyone.” The cook affirms that she wants to continue helping young people who need it, to any person “who can reach out to her.”
“The María Marte Foundation will work to help those most in need. It doesn’t have to be just women, there are many boys and – she says – if I can help with your development, God give me the strength to continue helping.”
For original article, see https://www.efe.com/efe/english/life/famous-madrid-chef-returns-to-her-dominican-roots/50000263-4044640 and https://www.efe.com/efe/english/life/famous-madrid-chef-returns-to-her-dominican-roots/50000263-4044640