Chef Enrique Limardo is often credited because the pioneer of contemporary Venezuelan cooking within the U.S. He’s solely the second Venezulean chef within the U.S. to obtain a Michelin star, and his restaurant, Seven Reasons, was named one of the most important restaurants of the decade by Esquire. (Limardo has a second Washington, D.C., restaurant, Imperfecto, as effectively.)
Whereas his culinary abilities are well-known, many might not know that Limardo got here to the U.S. to flee violence and corruption in his house nation of Venezuela. The chef could also be firmly on his ft now within the U.S., however he has not forgotten his roots or the hardships he confronted, which have fueled his ardour for mentoring different cooks in Venezuela in addition to working with a spread of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) via Immigrant Food, D.C.’s first “gastro advocacy” restaurant. On this version of Voices In Food, Limardo shares why serving to not solely immigrant cooks however all immigrants is necessary to him, and the way he’s utilizing meals as a conduit for change.
Once I got here to the U.S. in 2014, I left all the things behind. In Venezuela, I had my very own eating places, and my whole household was there, together with my spouse and two children. However the political corruption not solely created nice monetary hardship, it made it arduous to outlive — interval. My neighbor was killed proper in entrance of my home. After that, I knew I needed to discover a approach for my household and I to depart Venezuela.
I got here to the U.S. with a vacationer visa after which later obtained an distinctive expertise visa, which permitted me to remain longer. The primary six months have been arduous for me. My father, mom, spouse and children have been at all times on my thoughts. I used to be fully out of my consolation zone, and all the things was a battle. However folks helped me, and I used to be in a position to begin working, finally bringing my spouse and children over after one 12 months.
I didn’t get to the place I’m immediately by myself, which is why mentoring different cooks is so necessary to me. Now, I’m able to assist others who’re in my actual place I used to be seven years in the past. I used to be dwelling in Baltimore and dealing as the manager chef at Alma Cocina Latina once I got here up with the concept of an internship program for Venezuelan cooks. This system allowed folks in Venezuela to return to the U.S. on a vacationer visa and work on the restaurant. The intern candidates have been college students attending good excessive faculties or universities, or who have been working in a restaurant there already. As soon as they obtained right here, I began mentoring them, and so they turned a very good group to work with.
One one that was a part of the internship program is chef Mile Montezuma. After her internship, she adopted me to Washington, D.C., the place I employed her to be the top chef of Immigrant Food ― D.C.’s first cause-casual restaurant which celebrates immigrant tales via gastro-advocacy. Principally what meaning is that the restaurant makes use of meals as a solution to uplift immigrants via partnerships with NGOs. The meals on the menu is impressed from all around the world: dishes like Indian samoas, Latin wontons and a Ukrainian salad. Proper subsequent to the meals menu is an advocacy menu with fundraising alternatives.
The cooks who come to the U.S. via the internship program are like household to me. I hear their struggles, and so they know that I perceive as a result of I’ve been there, too. I perceive the violence and corruption they left behind. I perceive that they’re fearful for his or her mother and pop. I perceive that they’re sending as a lot of their paycheck house as they will to assist them. I perceive the sluggish, impatient anticipate a inexperienced card.
About 6 million people have left Venezuela, making it one of many largest displacement crises on the earth. Almost 100,000 have been registered with U.S. immigration companies since October 2021. Many are bused from the border to D.C., the place I reside. They get off the bus with nothing, no place to go and infrequently not figuring out any English. Each week, myself and the opposite restaurant staff at Seven Causes and Imperfecto drop off meals for them at a couple of totally different areas, together with church buildings and Union Station. It’s a solution to not solely give them one thing to eat however to additionally supply some hope.
Meals isn’t nearly nourishment or style. It’s these issues, but it surely’s additionally a mirrored image of tradition and can be utilized to ignite change. Once you cook dinner or share a meal with somebody, wonderful issues can occur. You simply may change somebody’s whole world.