“A peacock is most beautiful when he opens his feathers and shows himself,” Chilean chef Carolina Bazán says, referring to the feathers inked on her arm that metamorphose toward her wrist into a cascade of purple and green octagons. Indeed, Bazán, the 36-year old chef who is making waves in the Latin American culinary sphere—she’s one of only five female chefs to make San Pellegrino’s list of 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America—carries this ethos of no-holds-barred openness from her life into the kitchen.
Once a diplomat’s child helping her mother entertain guests, Bazán has been at the helm of professional kitchens since the age of 23, but her latest venture, Ambrosia Bistro, was scarcely two weeks old when I visited. The efficiency with which everything ran belied the youth of the business. Her dreadlocks piled into a high, messy bun, she paces around the open kitchen in intricate choreography with her cooks, an eclectic soundtrack pumping through the speakers. At 6:30 p.m., she’s easily been in the kitchen for eight hours. The new bistro, a spin-off from the more formal family-owned restaurant, Ambrosia, serves food from 12:30 p.m. into the wee hours of the morning. She showed no signs of exhaustion.
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“It is difficult to be young and have such a compromising schedule,” she says. “You lose your social life. But, in the two weeks since we have been open here, everyone stops by. It’s a younger neighborhood with different types of customers.” In fact, Ambrosia Bistro is located on the busiest block in Santiago, which, according to Bazán, is “in the middle of the middle.” Even as the daylight is just beginning to die, hordes of customers rotate through the three-table and bar restaurant. As the kitchen grows busier, Bazán remains unflappable.