Inés Páez Nin
Inés Páez Nin, Chef Tita, is a renowned Dominican chef who has been named the "Ambassador of the New Dominican Cuisine" for being the first chef to focus her cooking line in the rescue of gastronomic heritage and ancestral recipes of the country. Her project "New Dominican Cuisine" focuses on the avant-garde tendencies demanded by the new times, ready to be placed on the level of the great cuisines of the world.
For 20 years, she has studied Dominican gastronomic traditions, and has been dedicated to the investigation on the origins, history, influences, native products and culinary customs of Dominicans, from farmers and fishermen to craftsmen and artisans. Her vocation has led to the opening of her own Ima foundation, Ima means "food" in the Taino language.
Chef Tita has taken Dominican cuisine to great gastronomic experiences carried out in countries such as India, London, Spain, Sweden, Peru, Italy, Germany, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Cuba, France, United States, Guadalupe Islands, Turks and Caicos, among others.
She is the author of the book "The New Dominican Kitchen" (Dominican Republic's New Kitchen), which is based on gastronomic research, and "The Gastronomic Diplomacy of the Dominican Republic", a publication that was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Chef Tita is the first female judge of the Dominican Republic MasterChef, and is the pupil of recognized world chef Martin Berasategui (10 Michelin stars).
One of Chef Tita’s influential contributions to Dominica Republic, is her role in the officialpromulgation of the "National Day of Dominican Cuisine and Gastronomy" and the recognition of Dominican Cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Dominican Republic on May 2018.
Her work has been recognized worldwide and she has received several awards such as the Proclamation of Honor granted by the United States Congress; the proclamation of the city and the state of New York; the honor to the merit of the Mayorship of the Florida; among others.
Chef Tita knows that the kitchen can be used as a tool for change, and it is intended to leave a great legacy to the future generations of Dominican people to forge their love for their own customs, history and gastronomic heritage. Dominican cuisine is part of every Dominican’s identity, and they should be proud to make it known in every corner of the world that Dominican cuisine is one of the richest and most varied, and that the Dominican flavor is incomparable and unique.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Santo Domingo and I grew up in a place called Cabo Rojo in the southeast area of the Dominican Republic, near the coast of the Caribbean Sea, with my parents and my brothers.
Why did you become a chef?
Because I love the trade!
I had a lot of influence from my parents since I was little, watching my mother cook and I am very passionate about the art of cooking, especially about creating a legacy for our gastronomic heritage, and reviving all those recipes that are part of our identity and history.
Tell us more about this new concept, the new Dominican cuisine.
The new Dominican Cuisine is a sociocultural project that rescues the Dominican gastronomic heritage. It is a research project where the whole chain of food production is supported from the producer to the diner. This project also seeks to improve the way of feeding the Dominican people, which is a more sustainable and healthy cuisine.
Why did you think there has been a change in recent years with Dominican chefs who are more interested in working with local ingredients and appreciating the culture of Dominican cuisine?
The change occurred since we began to value our roots more. The Dominican Chef has realized that he or she has the hand of quality. It is not like before that you had to buy exported products, when you already have many quality products locally.
Now the local producer and all the biodiversity that exist in our country are valued more.
What makes the new Dominican cuisine unique and special?
It is a new cuisine that was born in the Dominican Republic with the aim of exalting our culinary culture. What makes it unique is that it is an author's kitchen, a different cuisine that tells history through each dish. It is a kitchen that seeks sustainability and supports small communities of farmers throughout the Dominican Republic
Can you tell us about the farmers you work with, from whom do you buy your ingredients?
We work with groups of farmers through the Ima Foundation, and we have producers of "GOFIO" from Alta Mira Puerto Plata, chocolate from the Productivas of Corozo Abajo Yamasa, oregano from the memizos de Nagua, and cheese from San Juan de la Maguana.
Any experience on the appreciation of tourists about their work?
I am very satisfied and grateful because every time I cook for tourists and foreigners in Dominica Republic and in different cities of the world, people love it. Those Dominican flavors will remain in their gastronomic memories.
What do you think about MasterChef when choosing the Dominican Republic as the first Caribbean country that organizes the competition?
It is an honor that we have been chosen to be the first MasterChef of the Caribbean, who has valued our culture and who has seen the full potential of this country. This is going to add to our standing as the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean. It is a blessing that local talent has been chosen and that our children now have this platform to grow personally and professionally. It is truly a privilege to belong to this prestigious program that is viewed in so many countries and opens many doors to the world of cuisine.
What is your personal mission?
My mission is to leave a legacy to the Dominican Republic and the future generations of our country, helping to protect the Dominican cuisine in every corner of the world.
Can you tell us what you are most excited about now?
I am very excited about the culinary diplomacy project, it is a project that I presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which was approved. It seeks to protect our cuisine as part of our country’s brand.
In addition, I am very excited about my foundation. Ima Foundation is a dream come true for me where we use the kitchen as a tool for change. Helping and training small communities in the management, production and consumption of food, among other things.
Lastly, I am also very excited about the gastronomic legislation approved in the Dominican Republic. This is a project that I submitted together with Senator Tommy Galán, through which the National Day of Dominican Gastronomy was approved and which declares our cuisine as a national intangible heritage.
Can you share your new favorite Dominican recipes?
One of my new favorite recipes is the yucca mocana cream, with queso de hoja and two yucca textures.
Cashew’s apple sweet (cashew) with Chocolate
From always, the incredible flavor of the cashew tree has been a memorable symbol of my childhood. I remember my mother collecting fresh cashews from the backyard tree, washing and immersing them in a large pot, and a short time later its characteristic aroma began to pleasantly flood every corner of the house. Today I have rescued forgetfulness and I also combine it with chocolate, to try mixing discoveries that complement each other perfectly.
For 4 servings
1 lb. mature cashews
2 cups of cream sugar
2 cinnamon chips
1 vanilla pod
3 cups water
½ pound chocolate 70%
Peel and boil the cashews in water for approximately 25 minutes, taking care to maintain their texture. Drain and discard the water and change for fresh water. Squeeze the cashews a little and take it tothe fresh water. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and squeeze again. In a saucepan over low heat place sugar, cinnamon, star anise and 3 cups of water. Mix well and incorporate the cashews. Cook over medium heat until the cashews absorb the juice and you get a good syrup. Remove from heat, add a teaspoon of vanilla and mix well.
Melt chocolate over bain maria and serve with the cashews sweet.