Chef Ruiz shops at the market for her restaurant in San Cristóbal. Chef Ruiz shops at the market for her restaurant in San Cristóbal.

Tzotzil chef from Chiapas among 50 Next, a list of up and coming people in gastronomy

Claudia Ruiz defied expectations for indigenous women to forge her culinary career

In Claudia Albertina Ruiz’s indigenous Tzotzil community in Chiapas, she was expected to marry young and tend to the home, but she chose a different path.

After pioneering her own way in the culinary world, she has now been recognized by the 50 Next, a list that celebrates 50 young people around the world, from activists to app creators, who are “changing the world of gastronomy in unique and interesting ways.”

Ruiz, the only Mexican included, made the list in the hospitality pioneers category.

The young chef was the first indigenous woman to enter the school of gastronomy at the Chiapas University of Sciences and Arts. Then she became the first indigenous woman to work at Pujol, the world-renowned restaurant of chef Enrique Olvera in Mexico City.

In 2016 she went on to open her own restaurant, Kokonó, in San Cristóbal de las Casas. The restaurant serves traditional Chiapas dishes and promotes indigenous culture, but has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Claudia Ruiz, one of the '50 Next' in gastronomy.
Claudia Ruiz, one of the ’50 Next’ in gastronomy.

“Values, family, love of art, respect for others and, above all, the acceptance of individuals regardless of their origin, are all present in our space,” Ruiz said. “That is why we not only cook, but also educate – and it is an education based on professionalism, but at the same time a more humane one.”

That education is for both clients and workers, according to the 50 Next website, a project of the creators of the 50 Best world rankings.

“At Kokonó, she provides young indigenous people with training, skills and jobs, while supporting local producers and educating customers on the origin and value of each dish. In a male-dominated industry where prejudice against indigenous communities still exists, Claudia Albertina also speaks out against sexism, racism and stereotypes. She is an active promoter of the slow food movement, which links the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment.”

After meeting Ruiz, celebrated Danish chef René Redzepi said, “I was impressed by her willpower, her knowledge of the ingredients and her instinct about the role of food in every part of life and society … now more than ever we need indigenous people to have a platform to share their abilities and ancestral knowledge with the world.”

Ruiz is currently in the process of setting up an association to help the vulnerable and a soup kitchen to help those in need.

“We want to empower and inspire the next generation to achieve their dreams without forgetting their roots,” Ruiz said.

Mexico News Daily

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