From the poor neighborhoods of La Paz to a Michelin star restaurant in Amsterdam, for the Bolivian Maria Theresa (22), it is a dream come true.
In search of work, Maria Theresa joined Manq'a in 2014, a cooking school developed by ICCO Cooperation and Melting Pot Bolivia. Meanwhile Maria Theresa graduated and works at top restaurant Gustu, where chef Kamilla Seidler was leading the kitchen until last yeast. The Danish Seidler was chosen as the best female chef of Latin America in 2016. In October, Seidler will visit the Netherlands at the invitation of the Amsterdam Michelin star restaurant RIJKS, where she will cook as guest chef on 6, 7 and 8 October 2017. Maria Theresa will assist her.
Maria Theresa is one of the Bolivian youngsters who, thanks to Manq'a, gained new opportunities. The Manq'a cooking schools were set up by ICCO and Melting Pot to train unemployed young people in Bolivia and Colombia to become cooks. The program is specialized in cooking with biologically produced local products. The philosophy behind Manq'a, meaning "food" in the local language Aymara, is that good food can contribute to a better world. Sustainable, locally produced food is healthy, better for the environment and stimulates the local economy. The training offers disadvantaged young people better job opportunities while stimulating the market for biological regional products. In this way, also farmers generate more income.
The starting of the cooking schools was possible thanks to the participants of the Dutch Postcode Lottery. In 2014, ICCO received an additional project contribution of the Lottery for the project "Buen Apetito, Bolivia", which enabled the setup of the first 10 Manq'a schools. Over the last 3 years, over 3,000 disadvantaged young people have obtained their official recognized certificate. This gives them the opportunity to start in the catering industry, tourism or as an independent entrepreneur with a private dining room or restaurant. Kamilla Seidler, head of the Bolivian restaurant Gustu, is involved in the project as adviser to the schools. She also guides students who work at Gustu, which belongs to the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants.
Manq'a is a success! Following the positive experiences in Bolivia, 2 Manq'a schools in Colombia have also been set up. In both countries, young people are very excited about the training, which offers them new prospects.