Chef Randy Siles is the culinary expert for Costa Rica on 196 flavors.
Randy Siles Leandro is the first Chef Ambassador of Costa Rica’s National Plan for Sustainable and Healthy Gastronomy, entrepreneur, restaurateur and humanitarian. An investigator of indigenous ingredients and methods, Randy rooted his cooking philosophy embracing traditional Costa Rican gastronomy, innovation and the ‘Zero Kilometer’ concept. Expertise, creativity, imagination and passion fuse with ingredients, flavors, textures and aromas to create a masterpiece of storytelling in each dish, or as Randy calls it, “Author’s Cuisine”.
Randy Siles is the creator and owner of OS in Santa Teresa de Cóbano, becoming the first restaurant in the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone presenting innovative cuisine with national identity under the philosophy of Costa Rica’s National Plan for Sustainable and Healthy Gastronomy. He is the cofounder of Autóktono – a digital platform empowering cooks to transform communities through sustainable and healthy gastronomy. He is also the founder of the “Academia Artesanos de la Gastronomía”, a nonprofit organization with the mission of identifying, training, developing and facilitating job placement for talented youth with limited economic resources and opportunities into the labor market of the gastronomic-hotel sector.
Randy Siles is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including inducted into the Disciples d’Escoffier International; inducted in the Les Toques Blanches International Club in France, becoming the first Latin American chef to receive this prestigious recognition; named among “Central America’s most creative” in 2017 and 2018 by Forbes Magazine–Central America and among the world’s top 50 chefs by the 2017 Miami Food and Wine Festival, next to acclaimed Italian Chef Massimo Bottura and the legendary Japanese “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto.
Tell us more about your knowledge and experience when it comes to Costa Rican cuisine.
Costa Rican cuisine has long been a tradition – it is cooking based on celebrations at home, always held by our mothers, grandmothers presenting all that these ladies can provide; the cuisine is filled with the flavors of love and dedication.
What makes Costa Rican cuisine unique? What sets it apart from other Latin cuisines?
For me, Costa Rican cuisine has a great advantage and it is its country: Costa Rica. Costa Rica covers an area of 51,000 square meters and produces in abundance; this advantage allows us to have any type of product in less than four hours, from the moment it is harvested to the table. Costa Rica is a country blessed with an abundance of raw materials, exceptional, fertile soils and sub-climates. Our country contributes 6% of our planet’s biodiversity; we are surrounded by two oceans – the Atlantic and the Pacific, boasting more than 500,000 species.
What is your favorite Costa Rican recipe?
What is the most unusual dish in the country?
I think there are few or perhaps no unusual dishes. Costa Rica is a country that has based its cuisine on vegetables, grains, legumes and meat by our ancestors.
What other cuisines do you like or influence your cuisine?
What places would you recommend during a visit to Costa Rica?
Traveling around the country is a wonderful experience which can be achieved in approximately 15 days. My top three destinations are: La Fortuna, Osa Peninsula and my favorite, Mal País-Santa Teresa, in Peninsula Nicoya, recognized as one the world’s five original Blue Zones, and the place I call home.
Other than your mother or grandmother, which Costa Rican chef is a reference for you?
More than references I think that today, Costa Rica has a generation of 10 chefs who have dedicated themselves to studying gastronomy and believing in their philosophy; chefs who have achieved experiences abroad and returned to the country to contribute the knowledge absorbed.
What are the main difficulties of Costa Rican cuisine?
Challenges I perceive in Costa Rican cuisine: training of our cooks, training to define the cook’s identity, and lack of planning among the entities involved.
What would you suggest if you had to prepare a Costa Rican menu: starter, main course, dessert?
I would suggest:
Starter: Local ceviche de chucheca with cas-based tiger’s milk
Main course: Red snapper with potato croquettes served with a spicy chile aioli and a caramelized onion cappuccino
Dessert: Arroz con leche (rice pudding) with tierra de café (coffee crumble) and aire fresco de pipa (fresh coconut water foam)
Interview translated by Carlos A. Coriano