As Colombia tries to mend its international image, Colombian chef Andres Dangond wants to do the same thing with his country’s food.

Dangond prepares traditional Colombian dishes in a new, creative and elegant way in pop-up restaurants across the United States.
Chef Andres Dangond’s gourmet take on classic Colombian meals Chef Andres Dangond’s gourmet take on classic Colombian meals Chef Andres Dangond’s gourmet take on classic Colombian meals Chef Andres Dangond’s gourmet take on classic Colombian meals

After several years of working as a chef in Chicago and California, Dangond is no longer surprised when he learns people think Colombia is a backward country where everyone lives in the jungle and people eat with their hands. This is exactly the image the Colombian expat wants to change.

Dangond created a series of pop-up restaurants called “Yellow Blue & Red” in Chicago to introduce small groups of people to the Colombian cuisine. It’s not only a tasty experience but also a cultural event, Dangond explains. He tries to educate his guests about the rich history behind each meal which are a “culinary mix” founded by Colombian natives, conquered by the Spaniards and shaped by African slaves using their own spices.

The biggest challenge, Dangond believes, is how most traditional Colombian food looks. “It’s pretty disgusting,” he says. It’s true that many of Colombia’s tastiest meals are deep fried platters of meat or pastry, all shiny with grease on top. So Dangond has taken his culinary training to dress up the dishes.

Take mango biche, for example. The greenish-yellow slices of mango sprinkled with salt and lime jutting from a plastic cup can be found at any street food cart for $2,000 Colombian pesos. Dangond transformed the classical snack into a tasty eye-catcher with black lava salt.

The chef also managed to introduce Colombia’s popular liqueur Aguardiente in his menus. At the beginning of the dinner, he offers his guests a hot drink made with aguapanela, water diluted with sugar cane, cinnamon and a shot of Aguardiente.

Dangond is always eager to reinvent traditional Colombian dishes. At the moment he is trying to figure out how to present Bandeja Paisa in “a modern, more elegant way.” The Bandeja is an oversized amount of food, including beans, rice, bacon, meat, pork rind, sausages, fried egg, arepa and plantain, that has to be served on a tray or platter instead of a single, regular plate. It’s not an easy job to include the Bandeja Paisa in a eight to ten course menu, admits Dangond. “I’m not satisfied easily in how I’m approaching things, it takes me a long time to figure out how to present a dish,” the chef added.

The Colombian, who sees himself as an ambassador of Colombian culture rather than an entrepreneur, has big plans for “Yellow Blue & Red.” Currently, the pop-up restaurant takes place once a month where he invites friends and friends of friends. The next step will be a culinary tour open to the general public across the U.S. with stops in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston.

From Colombia Reports

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