One of Colombia’s most celebrated culinary figures and chef proprietor of Leo restaurant in Bogotá, Leonor Espinosa, has been named The World’s Best Female Chef 2022.
The award, sponsored by Nude Glass, recognizes the industry’s top chefs, who set a precedent for their peers. Espinosa, who previously was named Latin America’s Best Female Chef 2017, honors the local products and ingredients of Colombian biodiversity by pushing gastronomic frontiers, and her Funleo Foundation has contributed to safeguarding ancestral food knowledge and culinary techniques of Colombia’s indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 welcomed the award of Leonor Espinosa, stating that the chef is “one of Colombia’s most important personalities thanks to her hard and constant work, as she not only recognizes and promotes local Colombian products and flavors, but highlights the value of biodiversity and social impact of gastronomy.”
Espinosa has played a leading role in Colombia’s gastronomic renaissance, and reimagined her flagship restaurant last year in Bogota’s vibrant Chapinero neighborhood. In her new place, Espinosa has developed a tasting menu with 100% ingredients of national origin, and each dish is part of a broader Colombian food narrative. The customer experience is inspired by Espinosa’s “CicloBioma” concept, which focuses on the country’s varied ecosystems and explores ways to use these sustainable horticulture in the kitchen.
“Espinosa is a self-taught chef who combines scientific research with culinary innovation and continues to seek new knowledge and train others,” announced William Drew, Content Director at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
After studying economics and fine arts, and working as an advertising executive, Espinosa felt the need to satisfy her creative spirit through gastronomy. In 2005, she opened the restaurant that bears her name, originally called Leo but known as Leo Cocina y Cava, where she fuses the traditional and modern. In 2015, Leo returned to its original name and established itself as one of the best gastronomic destinations in the region, ranking No.46 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
“It is a joy to receive this award because now my voice can be heard a little more, which will allow me to continue supporting myself in gastronomy as a prevailing instrument in the generation of socioeconomic well-being, especially in developing countries,” said Espinosa with news of her award. “Leonor Espinosa is a chef who has risen to the absolute top of the culinary profession, and we are delighted to celebrate her achievements by showing our support for this award. Espinosa is an artist and a visionary in the creation and execution of her dishes, which showcase the best of Colombian cuisine,” said Aslı Aydoğan of Nude Glass.
Espinosa has also been awarded the Basque Culinary World Prize, a global recognition awarded by the Basque Culinary Center, and Basque Government to people whose projects have improved social conditions through food. In 2020, Espinosa was also awarded the Estrella Damm Chefs’ Choice Award as part of the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, and only award voted on by chefs ranked on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Alongside Laura Hernández-Espinosa – who is also Leo’s head sommelier – the mother-daughter team continues to champion food sovereignty and conservation. Leo’s menu highlights the origin of each ingredient, such as big-headed and lemon ants, mojojoy worms from humid tropical jungles, desert pulantana and cacay, as well as oystercatcher from the Andean foothills. The non-profit Funleo operates a Comprehensive Gastronomic Center in the Gulf of Tribugá, as an alternative means of economic well-being and community-based development tool in a region affected by illegal mining and drugs trafficking.
Other special awards will be announced between ahead of July, as part of the preparations for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. The program of face-to-face events will culminate with this year’s awards ceremony at Old Billingsgate Market in the City of London on Monday 18 July.