Slow paced, colourful costumes and the strength of her words. This is Maura de Caldas, “one of the most important women in the development of the cultural and culinary heritage of the Colombian Pacific”, in the words of chef Leo Espinosa.
Maura Hermencia Orejuela de Caldas, a symbol of cultural resistance and the richness of her black roots, learned to cook as a child from her grandmother and her aunt, whom she helped to make sweets that were later sold to workers. “I cried every day, but then I learned how to make otaya (maize porridge) from cracked corn, milk and coconut” recalled Maura. She was also a primary school teacher, but cooking was always her true love. So, before she left teaching, she took the opportunity to teach the nuns with whom she worked to make rice with coconut and fish. Once in Cali, where she moved at the age of 20, she had to choose between cooking and teaching. She was able to cook and, little by little, she gained the charisma she has today. She created Los Secretos del Mar, a bastion of traditional cuisine, and began to promote the traditional flavours of her land, redefining the gastronomic subtleties of the Colombian Pacific.
Now, at the age of 82, De Caldas defends the concepts learned from her ancestors. Without being a purist, she is clear when talking about cuisine, cooking, ingredients, recipes and the influence of black people on Colombian gastronomy. This is one of the reasons why she was recently presented the Marie-Antoine Carême Award by the Latin American Federation of Gastronomy.