James Beard Award Winning Chef

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Opening a second restaurant a block apart from their first pan-Latin restaurant Zafra, was not a priority for either Maricel E. Presilla or her business partner Clara Chaumont. They were perfectly happy with their small, rambunctious Zafra, a casual pan-Latin cafe. But when a neighboring deli blessed with a much coveted liquor license came up for sale, the partners did not think about it twice and took the plunge. After a year of painstaking renovation, the restaurant opened to the public in April 2004.

The partners named it Cucharamama (CU-CHAH-RAH-MAM-AH), a whimsical name that means, literally, “mother spoon.” For Maricel, who had done research in Cuenca, in the highlands of southern Ecuador, the name was full of meaning. The longest spoon in a highland kitchen, the one women use to stir the ever-present soup, is called “Cucharamama.” This is a multipurpose tool that women use not only for cooking, but to scold misbehaving husbands and unruly children, and to round up cuyes, the small guinea pigs that are a delicacy in the Andes. For Maricel, Cucharamama became a symbol of the women who reign over their kitchens with their spoons and their good cooking, a most fitting icon for a restaurant ruled by women.

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