In 2014, I had the pleasure of speaking with José Escalante for an interview published on Buen Día Honduras. José Escalante is Head Chef at Rojo Loft, a culinary center in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Here is a digest of what he had to say about Honduran food and the Honduran culinary scene when I spoke with him last year.
Escalante highlights the wide range of flavors in Honduras, influenced by the diverse cultural groups that have come to the country.
Honduran fried rice is different from any other stir fry in the world. Marmahón, a dish with Middle Eastern roots — referred to as Israeli Couscous outside of Honduras — is a staple in many Honduran homes.
This wide range of flavors with diverse backgrounds makes Honduran cuisine stand out and gives it great story-telling power.
The young chef tells the story of how banana industry workers of Indian origin created flour tortillas in an attempt to make their typical naan bread. By adding beans and cheese these workers created the famous Honduran baleada.
Have you ever been curious about the small bags you find in supermarkets or markets simply marked «especias» [spices]?
“Especias are not just cumin and pepper. It is a masala [spice mix] of cumin, pepper, oregano, bay leaf, and thyme. You can find it in the home of all Hondurans. This speaks a lot about the history and the influence of cuisines that are completely separate from what we may conceive as typical. I would go so far as to say that Honduras is the only country in the region that uses cumin and pepper in this way,” contends the young chef.
I love Honduran gastronomy. It has kept me happy here for years.
José Escalante is originally from Guatemala. He says that after being a resident in Honduras for so many years, he feels Honduran.
Escalante’s description of Honduran gastronomy is truly inspiring. He values culinary art in Honduras as a source of opportunities which has transformational potential for the country. A few months after we spoke, Chef Escalante was a conference speaker for TEDxRíodePiedras, where he spoke about being a cook in a developing country.
Do you have any stories of your own to share about Honduran food? Please share with me in the comments.