The world's top chefs say it's only a matter of time before Latin America, home to Brazil's black bean stew "feijoada," Peru's refreshing raw fish "ceviche" and Mexico's street tacos, cooks its way into gastronomy's elite.
Spanish pastry king Jordi Roca and Danish chef Rene Redzepi, who runs the kitchen of Copenhagen's famed Noma restaurant, praised the growing recognition of the region's diverse cuisine.
"It's a question of time for [Latin American chefs] to reach the top because, to me, they already are at the same level as Europe," Roca, whose El Celler de Can Roca was named the world's best restaurant by British magazine Restaurant, told AFP.
Latin America is at the "vanguard" of cuisine, with Mexico, Brazil and Peru leading this culinary boom in a region where "popular food is deeply rooted and very rich," he said.
For the Spanish chef, Latin Americans are mixing history, tradition and indigenous tastes with creativity and cutting edge techniques. The use of cilantro or acidic and spicy flavors give it another edge.
Roca and Redzepi were among the star attractions at the 2013 Mesoamerican gastronomy congress in Mexico City this week, which gathered six of the world's best chefs, including Brazil's Alex Atala.
The attendance of culinary talent at such events "reaffirms that Latin America is a world power," said Roca.
Atala's D.O.M. restaurant in Sao Paulo is in sixth place in Restaurant's top 50 list, making him the best ranked Latin American chef. Two Peruvian restaurants, two from Mexico and one more from Brazil made the list.
"Today we must feel grown-up and know that we are no longer the ugly ducklings," Atala said. "We are living a historic moment, a process of change."
Redzepi, whose Noma restaurant was dethroned by Roca this year after a three-year reign, said such lists can be criticized but it has opened Latin American cuisine to the rest of the world.
"Now it is not impossible to think that the best restaurant can be from Mexico, Brazil, Peru or Denmark," he told a news conference. "This was totally impossible 10 years ago."
Redzepi, who has adapted Mexico's "mole" sauce for one of his trademark dishes, also predicted that a Latin American restaurant would soon be Number 1.
The region will reach the top of international cuisine thanks to "a diversity of tastes with hundreds of thousands of years of history" but also its search for something new.
"You just have to wait because the time will come," he said with a smile.
Redzepi had a good review for the Mexico City restaurant Pujol, which was Number 17 on the British magazine's list, saying he could not remember having eaten so well.
"For me it is at another level," the Dane said after eating there this week.
"Sometimes in Europe there can be a cheap or simple idea about Latin American cuisine," he said. "But there are many restaurants here that are more developed than many in Denmark."
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