Last month, on February 23rd, Casa de Campo recognized the achievements of various employees in the Food and Drink department along with well known Dominican chef Maria Marte, the only Latin American woman to obtain two Michelin Stars, the highest gastronomic award in the world whilst working at Club Allard in Spain.
Maria’s story is nothing short of a fairy tale, a tale with unexpected twists and turns, but a wonderful one indeed. She was born in Jarabacoa where she developed a passion for cooking at an early age. At 24, she moved to Spain and started out as a dishwasher at Club Allard in Madrid. Her arrival at the restaurant coincided with the consolidation of renown chef Diego Guerrero in the kitchen. In the beginning, she worked in the kitchen as well as cleaned up for a hairdresser, which took her away from her natural habitat but allowed her to support herself and her family.
María Marte took advantage of her work as a dishwasher and looked to the cooks to learn from them. Once she saw the opportunity, she applied to work in the kitchen but was denied. Another chance came around and again she applied, and this time was accepted to work alongside Chef Guerrero, whilst still maintaining her cleaning job. She would arrive in the morning and start cooking, at four-thirty in the afternoon she would then switch to cleaning and at eight-thirty would go back to the kitchen for dinner time. She mentioned once in an interview that there were times in which she would sleep on the stairs to be able to keep up with her daily chores.
After three months Diego Guerrero said that someone had to be hired to wash the dishes because she “was worth keeping in the kitchen”. From then on her growth was impressive. By 2006 she was the Chef’s right hand and learned all she could from pastry, cold room, meat, and fish. In 2013 when chef Diego Guerrero left Club Allard she was promoted to Chef and the following year helped earn the restaurant two Michelin stars.
After a few frantic years – plagued by personal and family sacrifices – Maria decided that it was time to stop. The renowned chef hung her apron to come back to the Dominican Republic, thus abandoning the restaurant where her dreams came true. She has a new dream: to embark on a new project that will allow her to teach local humble women the secrets that she has learned in the kitchen. She dreams to open a path for them to have an opportunity to prosper in the future as well as give them a job opportunity. Maria is using her savings and the 50,000 euros of the Eckart Witzigmann Award for Innovation that she won with the restaurant last year and hopes to receive the support of the government.
During the event Charles Keusters Director of the Food and Drinks Department of Casa de Campo Resort stated ” It is truly an honor to recognize the work, the commitment, an example of this Dominican woman, mother, worker and fighter as it is María Marte, first Latin American woman to get 2 Michelin Stars placing the name of the Dominican Republic on the map of world gastronomy.” During the event Casa de Campo also recognize the work and trajectory of various of the Food and Drinks department employees, some who started with a cleaning position just like María but have moved up to cooks in various of Casa de Campos restaurants. Congratulations to all of them! They are truly an example of dedication!
The following pictures were taken by Mairobi Herrera, during the event that took place on February 23rd: