The Indigenous Woman Behind South America's Biggest Male Chefs
Patricia Pérez uses her grandmother’s ancient map of the desert to forage for plants and herbs no one else on Earth can access.
The straw-colored silt of Chile’s Atacama Desert stretches out across the plain until it meets the Andes Mountains, the natural splendor at odds with the noisy buses and trucks cantering across the lunar-like landscape. In the nearby transportation hub of San Pedro de Atacama, dreadlocked backpackers and couples sporting designer sunglasses shuffle through tiny shops, fondling llama key chains and multicolored hats. To them, the desert might seem, well, deserted. But one woman sees life everywhere: flowering shrubs, purple cacti, hallucinogenic leaves, Andean roses, stevia leaves.
Patricia Pérez spends her days foraging for dozens of these plants and carefully drying them in her workshop. With her company, La Atacameña, Pérez has made a name for herself among Chile’s best chefs and food artisans, who use her foraged herbs in everything from the rose-petal cookies at Boragó, a widely acclaimed high-end restaurant in Santiago, to the minty shampoo at the nearby f…
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