With Buenos Aires on more event planners’ radars — it’s 11th on the most recent ICCA rankings for the number of international association meetings organized globally — the city is putting increased attention on the assets that draw events. Chief among them is the city’s culinary scene, which Condé Nast Traveler says is in the midst of a total “rebirth.”
Next month, those chops will be on full display as the city hosts the seventh annual Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. The three-day event — which attracts an international group of chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies — features a Chefs’ Feast, a thought-leadership series titled #50BestTalks, and the awards ceremony, which takes place Oct. 10 at Usina del Arte.
“I didn’t want to end my [tenure] without hosting the 50 Best,” Gonzalo Robredo, president of the Buenos Aires City Tourist Board, told Convene during a recent visit to Chicago. That’s because the world’s food community, “the restaurant community, the chefs, the influencers, everybody comes to Buenos Aires for those days, and they experience our restaurants and our bars,” Robredo said. He said those visitors “get a shock about what’s going on with the food scene in Buenos Aires, and that is great because it spreads the news.”
The Latin America awards are one of three “50 Best” events held annually, organized by U.K.-based William Reed Business Media Ltd. There is a world competition, which this year was held in Singapore and selected Mirazur in Menton, France — where Argentinian Mauro Colagreco is the chef — as the world’s best restaurant, and where Chef José Andrés was honored as the 2019 American Express Icon. At the Asian version, held this year in Macao, Singapore’s Odette took the top restaurant prize.
This is the first time that Argentina is hosting the Latin America awards, a few of which have been announced ahead of the event. Those include Latin America’s Best Female Chef Award, which went to Carolina Bazán, who runs two restaurants in Santiago, Chile — Ambrosía and Ambrosía Bistro — with her business and life partner Rosario Onetto. A mother of two, Bazán said in a 50 Best website interview that her goal is to inspire women in gastronomy and to encourage them “to dare to balance a demanding career with the desire to be a parent.” At work, her focus is on sourcing local ingredients and combining influences — at Ambrosía Bistro, for example, a sea urchin dish is prepared with such Asian elements as dashi, katsuobushi, nori, shiitake mushrooms, and miso.
In Buenos Aires, traditional Argentinian cuisine mixes with other Latin American flavors, Robredo said. “Chefs combine the best of our own cuisine and of Latin American food due to the variety of Latin American immigration in our city.
“We have very good beef, we have amazing wine — especially the malbec,” he said. But the city also has some of the best Peruvian, Colombian, and Chilean food. “Believe me,” he said, “it’s like no other city in Latin America.”
In addition, young chefs from Buenos Aires are training in the world’s best restaurants and returning home to put what they’ve learned into practice locally.
A vibrant food scene is crucial to a city’s ability to draw events and travelers, Robredo said. “The new traveler,” he said, “is in search of this local encounter. It’s like they somehow want to get as close as they can to the local culture in order to experience themselves what’s going on there.”
And for Buenos Aires, that has a lot to do with “the ambiance,” Robredo said. “It’s talking, having a good drink, having another one, dancing,” and of course, eating. “It opens your soul.”
Cristi Kempf is executive editor at Convene.