Home Flavors Chef Andrés Morataya: “I believe that Pedasi in 10 years is...

Chef Andrés Morataya: “I believe that Pedasi in 10 years is going to become a regional gastronomic destination”

Every foreigner who comes to Panama and stays to live is because they have fallen in love with the people, their culture and way of being. This applies to our guest in the Flavors segment who has lived in Pedasi since 2009. Born in Guatemala where he only lived three years, he spent the rest of his life living in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, Costa Rica, Taiwan and Panama. He studied commercial engineering but when he realized that it was not the lifestyle he was looking he dropped it, and only when he had a job that allowed him to enjoy a lot of free time he started cooking until he felt the desire to develop his full potential. Since then, Chef Andres Morataya began empirically, based on discipline and a lot of perseverance, to pave a successful path in gastronomy. Today he is a private chef who holds international events and shares with us his feelings about Pedasi, gastronomy and what is like to be part of the Expats community in Panama.

What made you want to develop your gastronomic potential in Pedasí and how is this destination different from other places?

“I developed my gastronomic potential in Pedasi because it is what I do and it is a profession that can be done anywhere in the world, if you cook well you can do it anywhere. In 2009 when I arrived in Pedasi, there was barely any talk of tourism since it was a place where only surfers and fishermen came. That being the case, there weren’t many restaurants either. However, what I fell in love with was its people. I always felt that Pedasi is very macondo where everyone knows each other and time froze, it is something very charming for me. I was not born in Los Santos but Santeño would like to be. And the Santeño has a very big heart, is hardworking,  likes to share and when they see that you are interested in their culture they open more doors for you. I remember that I had my Saloma teacher in the canteen who taught me how to do it, I have gone to Juntas de Embarra and Juntas de Arroz. El Santeño always has a plate of food for the Visitor or a juice drink, they always have something to share. They are people who have a place at the table for whoever arrives.”

You are an Expat working in gastronomy, how much do you feel the Expat community contributes to local and regional work?

“I believe that the most important resource that Los Santos has, especially the area of ​​Pedasi and Venao, which is where I live, is its people, and I believe that the fact that it is so far away forces anyone who wants to go to be there because of you really want it, and every time you want to go you have to travel great distances and not everyone does that, because to be in Pedasi you have to do all you can to be and live in this place, because it is not easy. For this reason I feel a very nice marriage between the Expat community and the local one in which they are very united, I don’t feel that there is any rejection from the local towards the expat, and vice versa. “There are many organizations here that are expat organizations but that are responsible for involving the local community a lot and vice versa.”

From which countries are the “Expats” who visit the restaurants in Pedasí and what do they like to eat?

“There are quite a few Americans and Canadians, and in Venao there is a fairly important Israeli community. In Pedasi the gastronomic offer is quite incredible, I believe that between Pedasi and Venao there is more gastronomic diversity than in the entire Azuero Peninsula. This is due to the type of Visitor we receive, since coming to Pedasi is so far away that whoever arrives is because is going to stay for at least three to four days. Whoever comes to Pedasi is no longer a tourist, is a traveler who really wants to spend time here, people who want to feel like a local. On the second day of being in Pedasi you already know everyone and it is such a small but friendly community that you end up getting to know everyone. This creates an experience that you fall in love with and want to return to. In Pedasí you have Smiley’s which cracks in Barbecue where gringos go to eat a lot, then in Venao they have Middle Eastern food places which is where Israelis go to eat their food. There is a tremendous Italian pizzeria where everyone goes.”

How have the food and traditions of Pedasí influenced your recipes and the experience you seek to leave in your diners?

“Pedasi changed the way I cooked a lot, thanks to being so close to the producer. When I had my restaurant I went to the beach, I waited for the fishing boats to arrive to buy the fish, I bought chicken eggs from people who had chickens, the same was done with pork. I had never been so close to the producer before. This closeness led me to have a great appreciation for producers and their product. All this changed my way of cooking, everything was focus on the product since I had kilometer zero restaurant. We made our own sea salt and cheeses.”

How do you see gastronomy in Pedasí in 10 years?

“I believe that in 10 years Pedasí is going to become a regional gastronomic destination in Central America. I have been here for almost 15 years and everything has evolved in such a big way, I see the gastronomic offer now and I think it is impressive and it will continue to grow.”

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