“Margarita Estupiñán was born in El Charco, Nariño, more than four decades ago. At 12 years old, after a family fight, she left her home and landed in Cali where, for some unknown reason – let’s say almost miraculously – a traditional local family adopted her, raised her, paid her studies and taught her several trades, among them the gratifying art of cooking.
When Margarita was 18, the family said: “We’ve done our part; now it’s your turn”. And thus she set out for Bogotá in search of work. Among other jobs, the “Negrita” (as everyone called her), was employed by the Croydon, a packaging company for roses in the Bogotá savanna.
Some of the flowers didn’t classify as exportable so Margarita bought and sold them, door to door, in the streets of northern Bogotá. One day she sold a rose bouquet to Melisa Guibert, a French women that had a boutique in the El Chicó neighborhood.
That afternoon, Melisa asked her: “Have you eaten (here) yet?” To which Margarita responded: “What do you think?” Melisa took her to her elegant apartment in Los Rosales and prepared a type of meat she had never had before. “I want to learn to make this”, Margarita told her.
And she not only learned to make a steak like that – as she also learned what it was called -, but then she picked apart a French recipe book from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, in which Mrs Guibert was an expert.
So, during 7 years, Margarita cultivated and dominated this succulent type of world cuisine.
In December, 17 years ago, Margarita went on vacation in Santa Marta, a land she then fell in love with. That’s when she decided to leave everything and, with her savings, opened a small place for French food called San Basilio.
The overwhelming success of the restaurant made Margarita expand, and so she rented a place in the city’s historic downtown, where her business still operates. Since then, Basilea (a name she later chose in order to give it a European touch), is an exquisite gastronomic reference in the city.
Due to the curious curves that destiny proposed, one afternoon a Swiss man named Christian Bumann happened upon her place. And yes…it was love at first sight (it’s been going strong 8 years).
But the incredible and well-seasoned story of Margarita didn’t and doesn’t stop there. Soon after Christian would get to know, in the intimacy of her home, her other speciality: cuisine of the Colombian Pacífico, and so he got her to open another spot, showcasing her other cuisine. The place became reality and it’s called Casa Marina.
If only due to such a story, it’s worth it to sit down at any of the two places. I’ve gone to Basilea many times, and yes, it’s a classic. A little while back, I visited Casa Marina and, in an “encocado” of shrimp, I found Margarita’s other truth: Pacific cuisine. In both cases, pure seasoning and a lot of heart.” – Source (which I translated)
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