Gastronomy as a drive tool for different actors and initiatives in Uruguay

ALC and Imago

The challenge in the Deep Demo in Uruguay now is to rethink a food system based on a shorter supply chain, with a lower carbon footprint that can be linked to local history and heritage and that supports the tourism and gastronomy of Uruguay.


As collaborators of the project, IMAGO visited the country last October 2022. The objective was to identify initiatives and realities of the territory that can use gastronomy as a motor of change.


Since the borders of gastronomy are increasingly blurred, it is necessary to promote meeting spaces to unify efforts. To do this, we consider it necessary to visualize the potential of transversal interaction between different disciplines and actors to cover complex problems.


The visit to Canelones confirmed the importance of deep listening, encouraged by the ALCk approach. Listening aims to maintain a sustained interaction over time, integrating multiple agents from different sectors. This process helps to know the aspirations and challenges of the community in real time. How is the food system in Uruguay transformed from an enrichment of the ecosystem notion to the future approach of prototypes and co-design?


The province of Canelones is reported to have several initiatives of great power. There are events that link gastronomy, culture and society proposed by the chef Nicolas Fumia. There are also materials that collect aspects of the gastronomic heritage of the area prepared by anthropologists such as Gustavo Laborde and Federico López, main compilers of Uruguayan food culture and testimonies related to domestic cooking since 1994. The cook, producer and trainer Laura Rosano, who is also responsible for the Slow Food movement in Uruguay and has already published knowledge about the native fruits of Uruguay. There are training degrees in management and hospitality underway, sheltered by the UTEC (University of Engineering and Technology) that show a firm interest and commitment to innovation, development and research. Curiosity about fermentation processes is evident in professionals like Adrián Orio, a self-taught chef. Tourist activities transversal to that of the primary sector operate in the area, valuing the tradition and local product of the region. 


However, the conversations and the mapping process have revealed that the actors that appear in figure I operate in a disconnected way, despite the fact that they share a common and shared cause: to transform and make contributions to the food system of the territory.


Some of the reflections during the visit in this regard were the following: "It is necessary to give visibility to what is already happening, spaces and/or activities are needed that convene the different mapped actors so that they develop interrelationships. We are doing similar things, but we barely recognize each other until now."


The disconnection between these agents of opportunity supposes, in terms of community participation, a division not only of information, but also of efforts. 

ALCk and IMAGO work with a portfolio approach from the gastronomic perspective there is a dynamic sector capable of generating relationships and social fabric. The team recognizes that the biggest challenge in this territory can be found in the interconnection of agents. What can be the gastronomic initiatives that drive, unite and strengthen the existing efforts in the territory for the transformation of the food system?


Imago suggests various prototypes through which to broaden connections, generate actions and strengthen the sense of collective identity. Among others, it is worth highlighting the co-created recipe book prototype. The listening process has revealed how there is a perception that the Uruguayans do not feel owners of their own cuisine, and that it has fundamentally European roots. In this sense, the recipe book would aim to respond to the desire of Uruguayan anthropologists and chefs to develop a common discourse of their kitchens and their relationship with the territory. Related to the informal waste management system in Uruguay, the organic bank aspires to promote a policy on waste management linked to the different productive areas of the Municipalities of Canelones and Paysandú. In this "circular economy" any actor in the community can contribute their wealth of organic waste to invest in the garden and, based on that contribution, stock up on food grown in the regenerative space. Other prototypes are related to collaborations between different agents, sectors and the exchange of knowledge.


As a team, IMAGO visualizes, in this portfolio of prototypes, initiatives that comprise a deep interconnection between the different agents of the value chain and gastronomy as a driver. The search for public-private responses in tune with social movements aspires to unite and strengthen the collective feeling for the transformation of the Uruguayan food system.