“Zero waste”: the fermentation guru who cooks with skins, stems, seeds and peels
“One day, while I was studying at the IAG, a seed cheese course arrived in my email. Without asking me anything, I attended. It was enough for me to enter that wonderful studio called raw, without being a vegan or even understanding fermentation, at the moment when the sun entered that glass roof they have and I said to myself: `I am going to be very happy here`· And point. That point was like that and that space filled me with rebellion. I longed for every Wednesday to do something completely different from what I was learning. Living with bacteria, knowing our roots, ancient techniques and understanding what happened inside the bowl”.
Is named Paula Sanchez (49), but the vast majority, especially her almost 80,000 followers on Instagram, know her as “The China”, a passionate and fan of organic cuisine who has been gaining ground in recent years with her innovations, her creativity and her originality when it comes to sharing her recipes.
Every word that Paula utters seems to be charged with a mixture of emotion and passion for what she does, a profession that she only discovered when she was 40-odd, as she herself says.
That course he took was a before and after in his life, both personally and professionally. “That path found me at each fair talking to the producers, like a curious girl, and my doing turned into acquiring what I did not know, but delving into its structure and the dreams behind the bottle.
Who was Dominga? Who was Ricardo? how does John do what he does? And it’s been almost 10 years since I bought from supermarket chains, encouraging clean production in which the benefits are that the producer takes care of my health and I choose when I buy and cook. So, what is on my fork represents what world I want to live in,” he explains.
Almost by chance he created his Instagram @lachinacocina with the particularity that the first sentence that appears under the number of the publications and their followers is “I am not a cook, I cook”, as if wanting to respect the trajectory, experience and techniques used by many cooks who years ago that have a name. However, through pure humility, work, effort and courage, she manages to vibrate in doing, as she describes.
Although Paula dedicates herself full time to her new profession, it took many years and various jobs to be able to fully enjoy what she does today. “I learned to draw plans at the age of 17 in my first job studying Economic Sciences and working in a studio. Later, I learned to ride a bike while I was studying Graphic Design looking at letters in the profiles of Buenos Aires and again after being a mother I resumed my training in Marketing. At 21 I was fortunate to be in charge of one of the most popular restaurants in Buenos Aires, there I learned to forge my character. Then, I wanted to be able to have the chance to have dinner with my friends and I went to the insurance category and so I did. Six days before confinement and after 17 years of uncomfortable comfort, I started in the health field. Until I left everything to dedicate myself to my business”.
Paula says that years of study at the IAG (the Gastronomic Professional career) were key to dedicating herself to cooking, which helped her to professionalize that passion and there she found herself wearing a jacket for the first time, something much more than symbolic.
“Learn from other rules, comply with instructions and put an order or a method to that passion. That time taught me a lot. Getting up at dawn with my partner Isis was a joy. Laugh, do, elaborate and then go to the office proudly wearing my jacket. And what amazed me the most at that time was questioning. Question the way of doing things. Change the recipes, try, recreate, make mistakes and go differently from what I was learning”, he is enthusiastic.
Related to fermentation and with her imprint on traceability and knowledge of products, Paula defines herself as the “malfatti of the kitchen”, alluding to the malfatti that “is a delicious dish, which has the form of homemade, love, It’s not perfect, it’s tasty. It has the scent of home and that’s my secret. When he lacks technique, passion weighs him down. It’s the hug.”
In recent months he began to dedicate himself to freegan food, which, although it does not have an exact translation into Spanish, has to do with cooking without wasting 40% of the food in homes, something that is obscene to him. For this reason, with his team he set out to study the properties of the skins, pits, stems, stems, leaves and found that with certain techniques not only a wonderful product is obtained, but one full of properties. “A home example is cooking with carrot leaves, beet leaves, an infusion with the leaves of your lemon or fig tree.”
His new venture, “La rebeldía en la cocina”, aims to cook by applying techniques, knowledge of the properties of skins, seeds, leaves, stems, shells and the search for balance and flavor, to achieve a surprising and sustainable dish. And, obviously, with zero waste. “We look for perfection and food colors. And if they are not discarded. We demand fruits out of season. We discard seeds that would be a forest because we don’t know what to do. It implies in a world in which many lack resources, knowing we are part of doing something different, with impact. Hopefully it can spread and stop being something new. Because everything that fills a garbage can is a second chance”, he is excited.
For Paula, rebelling in the kitchen is related to what is usually wasted, intervening the plate in each bite, showing textures and foods that we do not know in this way. “Cooking with your watermelon rind and dehydrating its pulp so that you know how it tastes when it has another structure, that the date flavor comes from a wood without cellulose and that everything is possible and restorative. This is not about chefs’ egos, but about enabling nutritious experiences to take home.”
This passion for organic food led her to open, together with her partner, in 2021 La China Warehouse, a business that is characterized by being guardians of aromas. “Yes, each bottle that we open evokes a moment and its intact aroma takes you on a journey to its place of origin. We delve into history, we know how they are used and the most beautiful thing that happens is that we share the information with whoever wants it”.
Paula dreams of continuing to live simply and show that a gourmet and social meal is possible. “I dream of being a vehicle and never losing tears when trying something rich and with history.”