Top Tica Chef Celebrates

December 10, 2004

YESTERDAY Dec. 9, IsabelCampabadal, Costa Rica’s most prominentinternational chef, celebrated 30 years ofcooking. In her home in Curridabat,approximately 200 honored this gentlewoman’s energy and eagerness to learnsomething new every day.Campabadal, grew up in Costa Ricaand later moved to Europe, spending mostof her time in France and Italy, “because atthat time there was no place here to getgourmet cooking instruction,” she said.In 1985, she decided to seize the challengeof inventing and pioneering CostaRican Nouvelle Cuisine and introduce arevolutionary way to “use our everydayingredients in a very sophisticated manner,keeping our culinary traditions but enrichingthem with many more imaginativeofferings.”She points out, for example, thepejibaye, “one of our typical products andone of my favorites because it was a staplein all aspects of the lives of the Indigenouspeople before the Conquest, from roofbuilding to basic diet.” Pejibaye, saysIsabel, can be prepared in many differentways, including delicious creams, delicatedesserts or flashy salads, somethingunthinkable years ago.ANOTHER characteristic of her artisticcooking is the regular use of nationaltubers: potatoes, yuca, ñame, ñampí,camote, malanga, etc., which she transformsinto a wide range of magical andunexpected dishes, including soufflés, puddingsor croquets.While defending Costa Rican traditions,she also praises internationalization:“A good thing for fine cooking is that wenow have access to lots of products fromaround the world, products that help greatlyin the invention of new recipes.”Isabel says her best achievement overthe past three decades “might have been toraise cooking to a professional and sublimelevel.” She says her daily battle has beengetting fine cuisine accepted as an art. Inher opinion, eating habits reflect the cultureof a nation and have a unique creativeside. She adds that “organizing a menu islike painting; it has to have well-balancedtextures, colors and flavors.”CAMPABADAL believes people arenow, “thank God,” more conscious aboutwhat they eat. In fact, she has already createdtwo light-food culinary workshops,where students learn to cook six-coursemenus with a total of 700 calories.Along with her love of cooking, she isalso a businesswoman, who runs her owncatering service, runs a gastronomic institutefour times a year (March, June, Augustand November), writes books, advisescompanies and hotels, travels abroad tokeep learning and plays an active role inthe international community of chefs.“Cuisine is my life. I learned from mybeloved mom and now I have my daughterhelping me. Cooking is an art and eatingwell is something we all should be educatedin from childhood. It is not about justeating, but a matter of time, love, inventing,taking decisions, health, care, joy.”Among the people she admires, Isabelmentions Florita Echandy, who has alwaysmade “a big effort to bring women newmethods for better and more abundantcooking.” Campabadal may be reached at:224-5803 or at chezisabe@hotmail.comABOUT ISABEL:- Favorite restaurant in Costa Rica:L’Ile de France.- Favorite restaurant abroad:L’Espadon Bleu (Paris).- Passions: French and Mediterraneancuisine.- Her culinary masters: Paul Bocuse,Alan Chapel, George Blanc and the TroisBrothers (creators of the Nouvelle Cuisinein France 30 years ago).- International Recognition: Isabel’swork has been recognized in internationalculinary magazines such as Bon Appetit,Sunset, Gourmet, The Globe and Mail.- Celebrities: Among others, she hascooked for U.S. President Bill Clinton andthe King and the Queen of Spain.

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