Colombia’s Food Scene: Chef Paula Silva Interview

Chef Paula Silva
Photo Courtesy of Paula Silva

Colombia’s food scene is often overlooked by travelers in South America, but Chef Paula Silva is putting love and good energy into every dish, and more and more chefs are following in her footsteps.

Silva has dedicated herself to experimenting with natural and pure ingredients local to Colombia; she was born in Santiago de Cali and is currently based in Bogota.

Her restaurant, Hippie, is in the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogotá and is a tribute to the colors and flavors of nature. Silva cites nature as her biggest inspiration, and loves being surrounded by the mountains, culture, and the gastronomy movement in Bogotá.

Her food philosophy is presenting cuisine in the purest way possible; her restaurant uses organic and antibiotic free meats, free range chickens, and mostly organic fruits and vegetables.

Her restaurant offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes. Each dish is not only an experience but also a lifestyle; dishes include a shrimp salad with mango viche with gazpacho crystals and tiger milk of basil and coconut and a cream of carrot and squash with turmeric, sprouts of beet, and chia.

I was able to ask Chef Silva for her cuisine recommendations for visitors to Colombia, and here is what she had to say about the food scene.

What regional dishes of Colombia should every traveler experience?

Everyone should try Arepa de Huevo and Sancocho. I like Sancocho as a main dish. And of course, all the fruits that we have here are just amazing, like Lulo. I also like the dessert Manjar Blanco.

I agree about the fruits here in Colombia; the variety is remarkable. I loved fruit tasting for my Guide to the Exotic Fruits of Colombia.

How would you describe the food scene in Bogota? How is it growing and evolving?

I think in the last 10 years, the food scene has grown a lot. We’ve seen people harvesting and creating products we couldn’t have 10 years ago, for example, like asparagus or a really good goat cheese they are doing in the mountains.

So I think it is wide open now and there are a lot of people doing really good stuff, and a lot of people working with local ingredients that I think is the most ideal and most important thing and making the culture grow with this.

In your opinion, what are the top 5 restaurants in Bogota, and why?

Hippe Restaurant Interior
Photo Courtesy of Hippie Restaurant

Of course, I love my restaurant Hippie (Calle 56 # 4-15). I am passionate about my food and what I do here, I really feel it is a great way to show Colombian ingredients in a pure way.

Hippie Restaurant Food
Photo Courtesy of Hippie Restaurant

I love the Italian Restaurant, Julia (Carrera 5 # 69A-19 Zona G y Quinta Camacho). It has really good pizza. I love the mushrooms and the 2 for 1 specials. They also have a really good beet and goat cheese salad.

For a special occasion, I like to go to Leo (Pasaje Santa Cruz de Mompox, Calle 27b # 6-75). Leo is Chef Leonor Espinosa’s restaurant. I really like the food she does there.

Leo Restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Leo Restaurant

I cannot wait to visit Leo this summer. I have read that their 13-course tasting menus are a journey through local and unique ingredients, and it is no surprise that Leo is #16 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016.

La Contadina (Calle 9Km, La Calera) is an Italian restaurant that is also really, really good.

Mediterranean Andrei Duck Confit Mediterranean
Photo Courtesy of Mediterranea de Andrei

There is also a restaurant called Mediterranea de Andrei (Carrera 6A # 119B – 05 ), and they have some great mediterranean dishes.

Are there any cooking classes in Bogota you would recommend?

I don’t know of many cooking classes in Bogota, but there are cooking classes available at my restaurant, Hippie. At Hippie, you can also find yoga, spirituality, and painting courses.

What is your favorite market in Bogota to shop for ingredients?

When I have all morning to spend at the market, I go to Plaza de Paloquemao (Avenida 19 # 25-04). There you can find anything.

Lovely, thank you for the recommendation. I also saw on Hippie’s website that you host a market every few months: Mercado Hippie. This seasonal market sells local handmade crafts and special food items, and the last one had more than 30 vendors.

Are there any restaurants in other cities in Colombia you always visit while traveling? If so, what are they?

In Cali, where I come from, I love Azul Restaurant and a little French restaurant, La Cocotte, it is so beautiful and the food is very good.

Azul Restaurant
Photo Courtesy of Azul Restaurant

In Cartagena, I love Chef Charlie Otero’s Restaurant La Comunion.

Yes, I love how Chef Otero’s menu combines the traditional flavors of the Caribbean and Pacific Colombian coasts with a modern reinterpretation.

In San Andres, I recommend Donde Francesca.

Absolutely, and I love that this restaurant is right on the beach serving fresh and healthy twists on Latin and Caribbean Seafood classics.

Thank you Chef Paula Silva for taking the time to share with travelers some of your favorite restaurants and aspects of Colombian cuisine. Although the cuisine in Colombia has often been underestimated, it’s easy to see that the food scene is thriving, and chefs are experimenting with local ingredients in fresh ways. There has never been a better time to eat in Colombia!

Buen provecho!

You can learn more about Chef Paul Silva and her restaurant at the links below:

Webpage: www.hippie.com.co

Instagram: @hippie.bogota

Facebook: Hippie

Twitter: @HippieBogota

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