Diana Holguin is the brains behind BogotaEatsAndDrinks.com, an incredible resource of Colombian food recommendations and restaurant tips. After scrolling through more than 10 pages of posts, I had every meal of my upcoming trip to Bogota planned.
A lifelong foodie, Diana attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in London, and received a Masters in Gastronomy from the University of Adelaide, Australia.
I interviewed Diana to hear more about her blog and her passion for Colombian food. Read on to learn how civil unrest shaped Colombia’s cuisine and where to go when you’re craving some hen neck.
Tell us about your blog. What inspired you to write about Bogota’s food scene?
Food has always been a huge passion of mine. My family – my grandmother especially – were really into cooking. I always enjoyed cooking but never considered it as a career option until 2000. I went to culinary school and worked in restaurants for a while. When I moved back to Colombia, I couldn’t find restaurant work that interested me or paid well. So I started working in marketing and sales (which I’m terrible at). But rather than putting all my food projects aside, I decided to start a blog in 2008. At first it was just for my sisters and parents. I really had no idea it would go anywhere. Then people started writing me emails and asking for recommendations. Now I run the blog, work as a translator and run food tours through Bogota.
Did you grow up in Bogota?
I was born in Miami but my whole family is from Bogota. It just happened that my dad was working in Miami when I was born. We moved back and forth a lot. I left Colombia in 1994 when the situation with the drug cartels got violent. I returned at the end of 2007. I was curious to see what it would be like to live here again after 13 years away. I also wanted to be closer to my parents. The city has completely transformed. I’m really glad I came back.
Based on your experience, what is the biggest difference between American and Colombian food?
The United States has been influenced by so many cultures; there’s so much diversity. That obviously affects the food. Colombia doesn’t have that. Colombia has the indigenous food, the food brought over with slaves, and the food influenced by the Spanish. That’s it. We’ve had a civil war for so many decades. We never saw many immigrants. But now the younger generation who left when the violence was bad, like myself, are returning to Bogota and opening new restaurants influenced by the cuisines where they used to live.
What are your top three restaurant recommendations for first time Bogota visitors?
The high-end restaurant that I would recommend for Colombian fusion is Leo Cocina y Cava. The chef has become a bit of a celebrity here. She does a lot of work in small communities, helping people document their culinary history – the recipes that have been passed down from previous generations but never written down. In the process, she’s also learning more about local ingredients and how to incorporate them into her food.
Mini-mal is a new restaurant that I want to write about on the blog. I met one of the chefs and we’ve become good friends. Her husband used to be a farmer and their mission is to support smaller farms. Just the fact the owners are so passionate about what they do makes the food even better.
Then there’s Piqueteadero Doña Nieves. The restaurant has been open for more than 65 years and their specialty is hen. In the kitchen you can see these huge pots of hens and broth. It’s pretty cool. You order a half or a whole hen. They serve it in a big basket lined with banana leaves and filled with hen, yucca and plantains. There’s a new dish that’s more for the brave. It’s called pescuezo, which translates to neck. The head is attached and stuffed with rice and blood and organ meat. It’s actually really good.
You give food tours of Bogota. Tell us about those.
The Bogota Eats & Drinks Food Tours take you to five places to see everything from the very traditional to the more modern takes on Colombian gastronomy. With my background in gastronomy and cooking, we usually end up talking a lot about food preparation and ingredients. I have a very strong relationship with the people we visit during the tour.
What is the biggest misconception people have about Bogota?
It still has the reputation that it’s really dangerous, that you’re going to get kidnapped. That’s not true. Then there’s the misconceptions that the food is bland and awful. Most people who take my tour leave with a better impression of Colombian food.