My name is Jeison Panqueba, and I am from Saboya, Boyacá. My family has had a deep connection with nature for generations, and agriculture has been our primary economic source. I grew up in the fields, and as time passed, I had the opportunity to learn from a Spanish chef who opened a restaurant in my town. Under his guidance, I learned to cook Mediterranean dishes like paella and various pastas.

In this culinary journey, a good friend of mine played a pivotal role. This friend had a connection with a chef from a fine dining establishment in Bogotá. That chef was conducting research in my region about its food and culture. My friend suggested I undergo a test at the restaurant to see how well I could adapt. Despite my initial uncertainty, I decided to try it due to our mutual friendship.

From the very first day, I was captivated by the kitchen’s operations and the teamwork. It was a big contrast to the place where I used to work, challenging the stereotypes for professional kitchens. I sensed a greater level of respect, and every team member worked together toward a common goal.

It has been an incredible learning experience. The chef and sous chef not only trained me but helped me evolve into the cook I am today. Our relationship went beyond mentorship, as they showed genuine interest in my culture and my region’s food. This connection led us back to my hometown, where they tried the arepas my mom cooks. They loved them so much that the Chef incorporated them into the menu.

My profound connection with the land has allowed me to share knowledge with the restaurant and my colleagues. I’ve become more actively involved in our research efforts and collaborations with local farmers. While I identify as an empiric cook, I aspire for more. This journey has provided me with a clear vision, and this year, I plan to attend culinary school to deepen my knowledge of culinary arts.