Interest in Panama is at an all-time high. Like Costa Rica before it, Panama’s natural resources and rich, multi-ethnic history are turning it into a coveted destination. And foodies and gourmands are beginning to flock here, particularly during late August. That’s when Panamá Gastronómica, the country’s premier food festival, brings together native chefs and fans from around Central and South America.
Panamá Gastronómica founder and president, Elena Hernández, who also runs a cooking school, Academia de Artes Culinarias, debuted the festival in 2009, and it’s grown phenomenally since. “More than a three-day event, Panamá Gastronómica is now a brand that looks to promote and elevate Panama’s gastronomy, and put us on the map of culinary destinations,” Hernández says. “We have consistently grown since our first year, moved our venue to accommodate more expo space and activities, [and] little by little [have] been recognized internationally. We are getting there, I think.”
Indeed, getting there has been a lot of the fun, and Hernández has been joined in her efforts by local icons and internationally acclaimed chefs.
“I admire many chefs in my country, most importantly those who are working with local ingredients and taking Panamanian cuisine to other levels,” she notes. “I can name Cuquita Arias de Calvo, who is one of the pioneers of New Panamanian Cuisine and written several books on the topic. Mario Castrellón is a young chef whose Maito tops the lists of favorite restaurants in Panama City, and Charlie Collins is a well-respected catererer in Panama who specializes in New Panamanian Cuisine and who, along with Cuquita, has been an inspiration to many young cooks.”
But what exactly is New Panamanian Cuisine?
Find out next!